COPD

is a term that usually refers to patient having one or more of the three following diseases.

     

  •       Emphysema 

  •       Asthma

  •       Chronic Bronchitis 

Emphysema

Emphysema is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged. Over time, the inner walls of the air sacs weaken and rupture — creating larger air spaces instead of many small ones. This reduces the surface area of the lungs and, in turn, the amount of oxygen that reaches your bloodstream.

When you exhale, the damaged alveoli don't work properly and old air becomes trapped, leaving no room for fresh, oxygen-rich air to enter.

Most people with emphysema also have chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the tubes that carry air to your lungs (bronchial tubes), which leads to a persistent cough.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two conditions that make up chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Treatment may slow the progression of COPD, but it can't reverse the damage.

Symptoms

You can have emphysema for many years without noticing any signs or symptoms. The main symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath, which usually begins gradually.

You may start avoiding activities that cause you to be short of breath, so the symptom doesn't become a problem until it starts interfering with daily tasks. Emphysema eventually causes shortness of breath even while you're at rest.

When to see a Doctor

See your doctor if you've had unexplained shortness of breath for several months, especially if it's getting worse or it's interfering with your daily activities. Don't ignore it by telling yourself it's because you're aging or out of shape. Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You're so short of breath, you can't climb stairs

  • Your lips or fingernails turn blue or gray with exertion

  • You're not mentally alert

 

Asthma

Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.

Asthma can't be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled. Because asthma often changes over time, it's important that you work with your doctor to track your signs and symptoms and adjust treatment as needed.

Symptoms

Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. You may have infrequent asthma attacks, have symptoms only at certain times — such as when exercising — or have symptoms all the time.

Asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest tightness or pain

  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing

  • A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling (wheezing is a common sign of asthma in children)

  • Coughing or wheezing attacks that are worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu

Signs that your asthma is probably worsening include:

  • Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome

  • Increasing difficulty breathing (measurable with a peak flow meter, a device used to check how well your lungs are working)

  • The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often

For some people, asthma signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations:

  • Exercise-induced asthma, which may be worse when the air is cold and dry

  • Occupational asthma, triggered by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gases or dust

  • Allergy-induced asthma, triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste or particles of skin and dried saliva shed by pets (pet dander)

When to see a Doctor

Seek emergency treatment

Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Work with your doctor to determine what to do when your signs and symptoms worsen — and when you need emergency treatment. Signs of an asthma emergency include:

  • Rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing

  • No improvement even after using a quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol

  • Shortness of breath when you are doing minimal physical activity

Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thickened mucus, which can be discolored. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.

Often developing from a cold or other respiratory infection, acute bronchitis is very common. Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking.

Acute bronchitis, also called a chest cold, usually improves within a week to 10 days without lasting effects, although the cough may linger for weeks.

However, if you have repeated bouts of bronchitis, you may have chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention. Chronic bronchitis is one of the conditions included in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Symptoms

For either acute bronchitis or chronic bronchitis, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Cough

  • Production of mucus (sputum), which can be clear, white, yellowish-gray or green in color — rarely, it may be streaked with blood

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Slight fever and chills

  • Chest discomfort

If you have acute bronchitis, you might have cold symptoms, such as a mild headache or body aches. While these symptoms usually improve in about a week, you may have a nagging cough that lingers for several weeks.

Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months, with recurring bouts occurring for at least two consecutive years.

If you have chronic bronchitis, you're likely to have periods when your cough or other symptoms worsen. At those times, you may have an acute infection on top of chronic bronchitis.

When to see a Doctor

See your doctor if your cough:

  • Lasts more than three weeks

  • Prevents you from sleeping

  • Is accompanied by fever higher than 100.4 F (38 C)

  • Produces discolored mucus

  • Produces blood

  • Is associated with wheezing or shortness of breath