Do you frequently feel out of breath while going about your day? Are climbing stairs and running feel very difficult? You might be experiencing the symptoms of COPD.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a respiratory disease that affects millions of people around the world. It refers to a group of pulmonary conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. At the beginning of COPD, the symptoms are very similar to other diseases and many patients do not realize that they have COPD until the disease progresses and starts to interfere with their daily lives.
In this article, we will have a detailed look at what COPD is and how it can affect the life expectancy of patients.
What Is COPD?
Chronic lung inflammation that gradually fills up the bronchi causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects the airways in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. With COPD, inflammations increase, and gradually the airways are blocked and less oxygen enters the lungs.
Among other symptoms, a chronic cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath are the most frequently observed symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other symptoms include increased production of phlegm, coughing phlegm, feeling of tightness in the chest, and fatigue.
Respiratory failure is the biggest complication associated with COPD. Generally, shortness of breath is the first symptom that many patients notice. As the disease gradually progresses, respiratory issues also worsen and become more evident. Patients suffering from advanced stages of COPD have difficulty breathing when performing physical activities such as climbing stairs, exercise, or sexual activity. Later, difficulty breathing can be experienced even when sitting down, and can patients suffer from frequent flare-ups where the symptoms suddenly worsen.
What Causes COPD?
COPD is one of the leading causes of mortality around the world and it affects millions of people. Knowing the causes of COPD is crucial to prevent the onset or progression of the disease.
The main cause of COPD is long-term heavy smoking putting current and former smokers at risk. Smoke from tobacco products is a principal factor in the development and progression of COPD. The number of cigarettes smoked each day and how long the patient has been smoking determines the severity of the disease. The more and longer someone smokes, the higher the chances of developing severe COPD. There are research indicating that one in four smokers who have smoked for over 25 years develop COPD with severe symptoms. Passive smokers are also more at risk for developing COPD.
The second major cause of COPD is long-term exposure to chemicals and substances that are damaging to the lungs. This can be due to workplace exposure or living in an area where there is air pollution whether outside or indoors.
The likelihood of developing COPD is higher among people with asthma. People suffering from asthma can get COPD even though they have never smoked before. If they do smoke, the possibility of developing COPD becomes even higher. It is strongly recommended that asthma patients do not smoke as smoking can lead to additional complications and risks to their health.
While the majority of causes leading to COPD are nonhereditary, genetics can play a role as well. COPD is linked to a genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. It is a rare protein deficiency that has been connected to the development of COPD. People with AAT deficiency can display the signs of COPD at a younger age and they can have COPD whether or not they have ever smoked.
How Is COPD Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned so far, it is recommended that you consult a doctor as soon as possible, especially if you have a history of smoking.
COPD diagnosis is done through a series of medical tests. First, in order to diagnose your condition, your doctor will examine the signs and symptoms you have been experiencing, discuss your family and medical history, and discuss any long-term exposure to harmful particles and substances. Then, several tests will be conducted to finalize the diagnosis.
The most common test for COPD diagnosis is called the spirometry test. It is a simple test that inspects lung functions by measuring how much air the lungs can hold. CT scans and chest x-rays are also used to diagnose COPD. Additional medical tests will be conducted after the initial diagnosis to determine how advanced the disease is.
As COPD starts out with frequent coughing and shortness of breath. However, the symptoms are very mild at first, and many people ignore the signs. Moreover, it is not uncommon that people with mild or moderate COPD to be misdiagnosed. If you experience any ongoing symptoms, consulting a doctor and getting an early diagnosis is extremely important to prevent the worsening of the disease.
Can Lung Damage From COPD Be Reversed?
The lung damage caused by COPD is very extensive and it affects even the smallest parts of the lungs called the alveoli. Unfortunately, there are no curative treatments that can fully reverse the damage caused by COPD, and lung capacity cannot be recovered to its healthy condition.
COPD may not be fully curable with today’s medical advancements but it does not mean that it is not treatable. The medical treatments for COPD aim to slow down the progression of the disease and relieve some of the symptoms in order to improve the quality of life of the patients.
How Does COPD Affect Life Expectancy?
The severity of the symptoms increases gradually over time for COPD patients. The effect of COPD on the life expectancy of patients is directly related to how far the disease has advanced. Since COPD progresses differently for each individual, predicting the exact life expectancy of someone with COPD is difficult. There are many people with COPD who live well into old age depending on the severity of their symptoms.
However, COPD is a serious condition that can eventually reach a stage where it becomes fatal if it is not treated. There are several systems for determining the severity of COPD such as the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) system and the BODE Index. These two systems are used by doctors to understand how advanced the disease is for each patient. The more severe the disease, the higher the likelihood of cardiac failure, respiratory failure, and premature mortality.
The exact length of time you can live with COPD depends on several factors such as the age, overall health, symptoms, and lifestyle of each patient. Despite the fact that there is no cure for COPD, the disease can be successfully controlled, particularly if it is diagnosed early. Studies indicate that if a diagnosis is obtained in the early stages of the disease and medical treatment is initiated right away, the rate at which the lung function of COPD patients declines can be lowered. Additionally, altering one’s way of living can decrease the progression of COPD symptoms. For example, quitting smoking can prevent the disease from worsening.
If you smoke and have COPD, there is also an increased risk of developing lung cancer. The majority of lung cancer patients pass away between one to five years after they are diagnosed. Do not forget that smoking is known to cause premature death and smokers live 10 years less than nonsmokers on average. If you smoke and are diagnosed with COPD, it is strongly recommended that you quit smoking to avoid further damaging your lungs.
What Are the Treatments for COPD?
Depending on the severity of the disease, there are several treatment options. Some of them are:
- Lifestyle changes (exercise, diet, better ventilation)
- Quitting smoking
- Breathing rehabilitation
- Prescription medicine (Bronchodilators, Corticosteroids, etc.)
- Oxygen support
- Lung surgery (Bullectomy, Lung transplant, etc.)
- COPD Balloon treatment
Today, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease remains one of the main causes of disability and death around the world. Unfortunately, there is currently no absolute cure for COPD. However, there is hope that COPD can become curable in the future thanks to ongoing research and numerous medical advancements.
COPD Balloon Treatment in Turkey
One such treatment is called COPD Balloon treatment. It is a surgical operation that aims to reverse some of the damage in the lungs by physically cleaning the bronchi airways with a special medical device. It is a promising treatment that is currently performed in a few hospitals in Turkey. Once the airways are cleared, the severity of the disease can be lowered and medication treatments become more effective.
Early diagnosis is the key for COPD patients. If you think you have some of the signs of COPD, it is strongly recommended that you consult a doctor as soon as possible.
At CureHoliday, we are working with some of the most trusted medical facilities that perform COPD Balloon treatment in Turkey. If you are interested in learning more about COPD and COPD Balloon treatment, you can contact us for further details and special prices.