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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) And Risk Factors

Updated on August 21, 2016
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Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

Bronchoconstriction of the Airways Cause By Tightening of the Surrounding Smooth Muscles as Occurs In Emphysema and Asthma


According to the CDC, COPD is the 4th Leading cause of death in the U.S

Smoking is the Most Common Cause Of COPD; Acounts for Approximately 80% Cases

COPD Includes Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis


Diagnosis Of COPD Can Be Made Early With A Spirometry Test

Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis and COPD Risk Factors

COPD includes the diseases emphhsema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is a serious disease, yet many people with the condition are unaware that they have it. A simple noninvasive diagnostic spirometry test is a good way to find out for sure if you have COPD. This simple lung function test can detect COPD before the symptoms become severe. It measures the volume or the amount of air a person can blow out of their lungs and how fast they are able to do so. The test can help health care providers decide the best plan of treatment.

Risk Factor For COPD

Risk factors For Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis, collectively known as COPD includes

  • People who used to, or still smoke
  • Have long-term exposure to lung irritants
  • Have a genetic condition known as AAT deficiency, Around 100,000 American have alpha-1 antitrypsin. People with this condition can get COPD even if they have never smoked or had long-term exposure to harmful irritants.

Those at high risk for getting COPD should:

  • Quit smoking, this is the only proven way to reduce the risk for tobacco-related lung diseases
  • Avoid exposure to harmful pollutants
  • Visit the doctors regularly, discuss shortness of breath, chronic cough or reduced activity level
  • Take action to prevent colds and flu, such as avoiding crowds during the flu season, get yearly flu and pneumonia shots as directed by your doctor
  • Comply with medications, take as directed
  • Enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program
  • Learn more about the condition visit
  • If in doubt, get a simple spirometry test to help diagnose the condition

New Treatment For COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Symptoms and Flares In Cold Weather

Autumn is here, and the leaves are changing from green to gold. The temperature is beginning to drop heralding the start of the flu season.

Now is the time to turn our thoughts to the long cold winter months ahead, and find ways to lessen the symptoms and flares in people suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

For some, particularly the very young, the very old and individuals who are already experiencing ill health, winter can be a dangerous time of the year. Hospital wards, A/Es, and intensive care units across the country, are already feeling the strain, many will be approaching their capacity.

The change in temperature at this time of the year often comes with a marked increase in hospital admissions. An exacerbation of chronic lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis referred to as (COPD) can flare-up as a result of colds and flu that commonly occurs during the winter months.

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or ( COPD) is the term used to describe some conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

COPD is a pulmonary disease where breathing is difficult due to long-term damage to the lungs causing narrowing of the airways. The changes in the lungs of people with COPD may vary, depending on the exact nature of the disease. However, the final result is a degree of narrowing or blockage of the airways and reduction in the air that flows to and from the lungs.

This condition has been referred to in the past as, Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease (COAD), Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease and even mistakenly, Chronic Asthma.

Everyone who has chronic bronchitis or emphysema has COPD, and there are many people with a combination of both conditions. COPD can affect every aspect of day to day living, and will require significant lifestyle changes.

  • Chronic means persisting for a long time or constantly recurring

  • Bronchitis involves inflammation and swelling of the lining of the airways, leading to narrowing and obstruction. The inflammation also stimulates excessive production of sputum or mucus which can cause further obstruction of the airways and an increased likelihood of bacterial lung infection

  • Pulmonary relates to the lungs

Emphysema, emphysema causes permanent damage to the walls of the smaller airways and alveoli. The destruction of the alveolar walls reduces the elasticity of the lung as a whole. The loss of elasticity causes the bronchioles to collapse, reducing airflow and trapping air within the alveoli, thereby reducing the ability of the lung to shrink on expiration or when we breathe out. The trapped air occupies the lung space, allowing less air into the lung on the next breath. Trapped air can also compress the healthy lung tissue, preventing it from functioning to its capacity, further reducing the ability of the lungs to function effectively.

COPD Symptoms and Signs

COPD results from gradual damages to the lungs. The vast majority of people who are affected by this condition are above the age of 35 who are or have been heavy smokers when the first symptoms began. Many individuals with COPD tend to ignore those first symptoms and fail to seek medical advice. They dismiss persistent coughing and breathing difficulties as nothing more than smokers a cough. Smokers account for between 80% to 90% of people with COPD. The symptoms of COPD vary depending on the severity of the condition and how well an individual has adapted to it.

Symptoms includes-:

  • Coughing is usually the first symptom to develop due to the inflammation that increases mucus production in the airways. The Cough is productive and chesty with the production of sputum or phlegm. Initially, the cough may come and go but gradually becomes more persistent.

  • Shortness of breath occurs on exertion in the early stages of the condition. Everyday activities that were once effortless, such as climbing stairs and walking distances, gradually become more difficult, requiring greater effort over the years. Breathing requires much effort and is very disabling, especially when the individual continues to smoke.

  • Damaged airways produce much more mucus than normal, people with COPD produce large amounts of sputum daily.

  • Chest Infections are much more prevalent in people with COPD. Coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness may become worse than usual; sputum turns yellow or green when there is a chest infection.

  • Studies point to a prevalence of anxiety and depression in people with COPD, amounting to around 50%, with a corresponding mark increased of panic disorder and major depression when compared to the general population.

Exacerbation of COPD is a worsening of the condition, but it is an event in the natural course of the disease.

In exacerbation of COPD, there are changes in the baseline symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and the production of sputum that is beyond the day to day changes. The changes may be sudden, requiring a review and possible change of medication. In more severe cases hospital admission may be necessary.

The top two causes of exacerbation of COPD are bacterial or viral lung infection and air pollution. However, in 1/3 of all cases of exacerbation of COPD, the cause can not be identified.

Research shows that smoking, lack of pulmonary rehabilitation program, poor compliance with the use of inhalers and drug therapy are all associated with more frequent episodes of COPD exacerbation.

COPD is usually the result of long-term exposure to lung irritants that damages the lungs and the airways. Inhaled cigarette smoke is the most common lung irritant know to cause COPD.

Air pollution, chemical fumes, dust from the environment or workplace can also contribute to the development COPD.

Rarely, a genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is thought to play a role in causing COPD. People with this condition have low levels of alpha-1 antitrypsin, a protein made in the liver. Low levels of this protein can lead to lung damage and COPD when exposed to smoking or other lung irritants. COPD in people with this deficiency who also smokes can worsen very quickly.

In Conclusion

We now know that lifestyle factors like smoking, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise are among the leading causes of illness in Western countries. We also know that such diseases develop slowly, it takes time before the first symptom appears and a diagnosis made.

Many apparently healthy people are in a state of pre-ill. Their bodies already contain the beginning of the illness that may eventually cause their deaths. If we were to focus on prevention, focus on the pre-ill, perhaps we could slow or stop these diseases early, before they develop into a major clinical problem.

Diagnose Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease Early With Spirometry

Treatment for Emphysema

Modelled Percentage Prevalence of COPD Amongst Those Aged Over 16 Years By London Borough 2011

London Boroughs

Enfield, borough Middlesex uk:
Middlesex, Enfield, Enfield, Greater London EN3, UK

get directions

Barking uk:
Barking, Greater London, UK

get directions

Kensington and Chelsea uk:
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London, UK

get directions

Richmond upon Thames uk:
Richmond, Richmond, Greater London, UK

get directions

Hammersmith uk:
Hammersmith, London W6, UK

get directions

Hackney uk:
Hackney, London E9, UK

get directions

Brent uk:
London Borough of Brent, Greater London, UK

get directions

Hounslow uk:
Hounslow, Greater London, UK

get directions

Stop Smoking

Do you smoke? if yes, after reading this article how likely are you to stop smoking?

See results

© 2012 Jo Alexis-Hagues


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    • profile image

      Nancy Densmore 

      18 months ago

      Wish I would have known earlier, maybe I would feel better and want to do more

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Thanks Michelle, much appreciated.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      A preventable condition, and all it takes it for folks to adjust their lifestyles. Thanks for sharing! I will help to raise awareness of the condition too.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Jamie, thanks for taking a look. Your family will be forever grateful that you did stop smoking.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      6 years ago from Reno NV

      I always enjoy your medical hubs, I am glad that I stopped smoking. Jamie

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Kashmir, many thanks for the visit and comment, much appreciated.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very well written and informative information on COPD, some of it i did not know before, thanks !

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Billy, the name has changed over the years, but the disease is just as awful. I'm sorry to hear about your friend, I hope he is coping with his condition. many thanks for the visit, always good to see you.

      Enjoy your week end.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      JohnKadu123, nice to see you, yes, many people are suffering from this disease, it is preventable, but once acquired, the condition is irreversible and needs to be managed. Thank you for stopping by and for the insightful comment.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Curiad, many thanks for the visit and wonderful comment.

      Best wishes to you.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Sueswan, I'm sorry about you dad, it must have been tough to lose him so young.

      Smoking is responsible for so many heart aches, the best way of dealing with it, is never to start smoking. Maybe the next generation will learn from our mistakes. Have a wonderful week end.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is very well written and clearly explained. Great job with writing and sharing this!

    • Johnkadu123 profile image


      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      What a dreadful disease. It seems that many people go undiagnosed and hubs such as these will go a long way in raising awareness. The people that argue against the ban on smoking in public places should really read this. Thanks for writing the hub.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi tobusiness

      My dad died of complications from COPD. He was a very heavy smoker and started smoking at the age of 8. He died at 68.

      What use to bother me is other friends and family members who would continue to smoke in front of him. I am a non smoker but if I wasn't I would hope I would stop and think that maybe I should stop smoking because I could get COPD.

      Voted up and awesome

      Enjoy your weekend.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I didn't know it was called that. Great info for sure. I have a friend who is on oxygen constantly, and it is a sad thing to see, especially since it was preventable if he had followed these suggestions.

      Well done my friend! Have a great weekend!

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Thank you Irish, Very much appreciated.

      My best to you.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      You have provided a useful and well researched article on COPD.

      Great write my friend

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Carol, many thanks for the visit, share and comment, I'm so glad you found it useful, that makes it all worth while.

      Best wishes to you.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      This really explained COPD. I kind of knew what it was but am certainly more clear. Thanks for a great hub. Voted Up and will share.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Hi Audrey, thank you for the visit, sharing and comment. Yes fortunately, many of the serious diseases plaguing us are preventable. We need to take action early.

      My best wishes to you.

    • tobusiness profile imageAUTHOR

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Frank, thank you for taking a look, and for the encouraging comment. Bless.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      what a clear concise and easy to follow important hub tobusiness.. very useful

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      Such a preventable condition! Thank you for this hub--passing it on!


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