Prevent Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Don’t Smoke

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/COPD (Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema): Major Complications of Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and most people with COPD have symptoms of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is chronic or long-term lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. There are two main forms of COPD:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which causes long-term swelling and a large amount of mucus in the main airways of the lungs
  • Emphysema, a lung disease that destroys the air sacs in the lungs.

The more a person smokes, the more likely that person will develop severe bronchitis and emphysema. Secondhand smoke may also cause chronic bronchitis. Air pollution, infection, and allergies make chronic bronchitis worse.

Other risk factors for COPD are:

  • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
  • Exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution
  • Frequent use of cooking gas without proper ventilation

More about Chronic Bronchitis – This condition is inflammation of the main airways in the lungs that continues for a long time, and keeps returning. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis, and the more a person smokes, the more likely it is that he or she will develop serious chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is one form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, combined, are a leading cause of death in the United States.

Key symptoms of chronic bronchitis are;

  • Coughing that produces sputum, or mucus, that may be streaks of blood in it
  • Shortness of breath which is made worse by exertion or mild activity
  • Frequent infections in the respiratory (breathing) system that make the symptoms worse
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue, or tiredness
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet and legs
  • Headaches

A diagnosis of chronic bronchitis is usually made when the cough and excess mucus production last for 3 months or more, and occur at least 2 years in a row without any other disease or condition that could be the cause. Prevention of chronic bronchitis is so important because there is no cure.

Treatment of chronic bronchitis, therefore is focused on decreasing the symptoms and preventing complications.

Emphysema – (also called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD) – A progressive (or increasing) condition of the lungs that causes shortness of breath and decreased capacity for physical activity. It is caused by damage to the small air sacs and small airways in the lungs. As a result of increased air spaces around the ends of the breathing tubes and the resulting damage, the air spaces block, or obstruct, the walls of the breathing tubes, and it is difficult to exhale, or breath air out. Since there is no cure for emphysema, prevention is very important.

The most common cause of emphysema/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is cigarette smoking. Therefore, the best ways to prevent emphysema is never to smoke, and to keep away from secondhand smoke (also called passive smoking) as much as possible.

When emphysema is advanced, people have to work so hard to expel air from their lungs that just the simple act of breathing requires a lot of energy. Once it develops, emphysema is irreversible. Therefore, treatment focuses on decreasing symptoms and avoiding complications.

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