Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – risk factors, symptoms & precautionary measures

Article written by :dr-ajay-krishna-sarkar
Dr Ajoy Krishna Sarkar
MD (Cal), MRCP (UK), FRCP (London)
Clinical Director, Critical Care Unit

high exposure to air pollutants. Hence, the risk factors of COPD are mainly – tobacco & air pollution. World wide as we know air population is on the rise.

There are two main types of lung damage that cause COPD: One is bronchitis, where  the airway always becomes narrow and inflamed, making it harder to breathe. The lungs may also make too much mucus; which causes coughing.

The bronchitis caused by COPD lasts for a long time. It’s not the same as having bronchitis that’s caused by an infection.

The other type of damage is emphysema. This causes parts of the lungs to become less elastic (stretchy) so that they don’t squeeze out air properly. While breathing out some old air gets trapped in the lungs.

Having COPD can mean that the patient may have either bronchitis or emphysema, or both at the same time.

The symptoms which are to be noticed are:

  • Persistent cough, particularly with mucus production. This is the most common symptom.
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities which includes exercise as well.
  • Frequent respiratory infections.
  • Blueness of lips or fingernail beds.
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling pressure in the chest region.
  • Loss of weight or muscle

Visit your consultant or any Respiratory Medicine specialist for proper diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

Cigarette smoking is the principal risk factor of COPD. Occupational and environmental exposure to chemical fumes, dust, automobile exhausts/smoke, dust and other pollutants are also responsible for the same. It has also been noticed that individuals who had a history of severe childhood lung infection are more prone to develop COPD at an early age. Early detection and evaluation allows for earlier treatment, which can help in preserving lung function and also help in managing progression of the disease. Diagnosis is mainly performed by taking history of the patient. Spirometry is a test which is also prescribed for final screening & confirmation of COPD.

If someone is diagnosed with COPD, the precautionary measures which need to be followed are:-

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat right & exercise (breathing exercises are very helpful). Avoid heavy lifting
  • Proper rest is important
  • Have your medicines timely and correctly
  • Vaccination in adults is a major recommendation nowadays for COPD patients. There are various adult vaccines which are administered to provide protection against conditions which may affect the lungs. Influenza & pneumococcal vaccine helps in providing secondary prevention by preventing or minimizing the severity of COPD exacerbations caused by respiratory infections.

And please do remember, use of tobacco is not only harmful for your lungs. Its use is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. India being the second largest producer of tobacco is also a very high rated consumer of it. Use of tobacco not only affects you, but also affects the near and dear ones around you. Many people live with COPD for many years without getting into worse condition. But others get worse very quickly. Hence, please quit smoking to live a healthy life.


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