Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a disorder that results in chronic obstruction of the airways that go to the lungs. It can result from emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, or any combination of these disorders. The most likely combination of pulmonary diseases that leads to COPD involves bronchitis and emphysema. Nearly 20 million people are affected in the U.S. and the incidence is rising. Men are affected more than women, primarily because they are more likely to be the heavy smokers. This pattern of behavior is changing, however.
Causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Emphysema results from damage to the lung from inflammation and bronchial irritation. This is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. Other conditions that produce emphysema include air pollution, antitrypsin deficiency (an inherited form of emphysema), occupational exposure to irritants (e.g., firefighters), and viral infection.
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
The changes that may lead to COPD are thought to begin early in adulthood. The clinical symptoms, however, usually do not appear until middle age. Symptoms of bronchitis include frequent cough or coughing spasms. There are usually large amounts of sputum. The sputum may be thick, difficult to cough up and may change color, particularly in an infection develops usually with sputum, shortness of breath, sputum that is thick and difficult to cough up, sputum color and varcharacteristics change according to infection. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing may occur. Symptoms commonly associated with emphysema depend on its severity. Early on, there may be minimal symptoms. As the disease progresses, shortness of breath, which steadily increases over several years, occur. Recurrent infections of the lungs or bronchial tubes produces coughing, sputum and wheezing. Weight loss may occur.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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