Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD? Be sure
One of the most compelling reasons to get proper medical diagnosis if you suspect that you are suffering from asthma is to be sure that you are not developing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease instead.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a general term for people with chronic bronchitis or emphysema; often both conditions being present at the same time. With COPD as with asthma,
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseasethe airflow to the lungs is restricted but unlike asthma COPD is normally progressive and irreversible.
With chronic asthma the flow of air out of the lungs is obstructed through inflammation, the obstruction usually being reversible and the flow of air through the airways typically returning to normal between attacks.
However where chronic asthma remains untreated over a long period the inflammation can cause the airway obstruction to become fixed, resulting in the sufferer experiencing an abnormal air flow between attacks.
This occurs because the tubes in the lungs, divide into smaller and smaller tubes. the bronchioles, which end in bunches of tiny round air sacs known as alveoli.
In healthy lungs, the alveoli are elastic filling up with air like a small balloon on an in-breath. And deflating when you breath out.
With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease however, less air is able to flow in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following: the walls of the airways become thickened and inflamed; the airways create extra mucus, which tends to clog them; the airways and air sacs lose their elasticity becoming more rigid and the walls between many of the air sacs are damaged or destroyed and as a result can collapse obstructing the flow of air.
Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorders
Some of the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disorders are similar to asthma, however there are also some important differences.
Regular bouts of coughing may be one of the early symptoms to develop which will be intermittent at first, a smokers cough, but which will then progress to becomes more persistent leading to increasing breathlessness. Unlike an asthma cough which tends to be a dry cough, COPD is a productive cough, that is, one that will produce phlegm.
Breathlessness and wheezing, particularly during periods of exertion will tend to worsen over time.
Often patients with COPD are labeled by the symptoms they are having at the time of an exacerbation of their disease. For instance, if they present with mostly shortness of breath, they may be referred to as emphysema patients. While if they have mostly cough and mucus production, they are referred to as having chronic bronchitis. In reality, it is better to refer to these patients as having COPD since they can present with a variety of lung symptoms.
Sufferers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease normally fall into one of two groups.
In cases consisting mostly of shortness of breath, they may be referred to as suffering from emphysema.
Where they present mostly symptoms of coughing and mucus production, they are referred to as having chronic bronchitis. These two conditions often overlap however, additionally chronic asthma may be present also.
Tests For Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
There are a number of tests available to your doctor for diagnosing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease these will complement a general examination of your lifestyle.
These include a Spirometry test, measureing airflow into and out of the lungs, this test is good for diagnosing lung problems at an arly stage. A Bronchial Provocation test which takes place in conjunction with a spiometry test before and after and assesses the sensitivity of the lungs airways.
An Exercise Tolerance test which evaluates the degree to which both heart and lungsare able to provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream before, during and after exercise.
Additionally chest X-rays and CT scans may be employed to further aid diagnosis.
Causes of and Treatment For Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Unless you are unlucky enough to be one of the 1% whose condition results from a genetic deficiencies of an enzyme known as alpha-1 antitrypsin. the main probable cause in 95% of all cases is smoking, the remaining cases being due to regular exposure to other irritants and pollutants. Thus in most cases Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is totally preventable however the damage once inflicted cannot be undone.
In treating COPD the first requirment is a total end to smoking and/or avoidance of any airbourne pollution; this action alone may lead to some improvement in the patients ability to breath more normally, particularly at early stages.
Medications may include short-acting bronchodilators -anticholinergics and beta agonists, which can result in rapid though temporary, relief of symptoms such as shortness of breath.
Corticosteroids which are inhaled and commonly prescribed for those with moderate to severe COPD, particularly where the symptoms are deteriorating.
Also systemic corticosteroids (normally as pills) which are employed to relieve airwayconstriction and inflammation in where the symptoms are severe.
Inhaled corticosteroids are recommended for people with moderate to severe COPD who often experience worsening symptoms (exacerbations) or have experienced recurrent hospitalization due to their COPD.
Where the weakened lungs have succumed to other infections, antibiotics may also be selectively prescribed.
In severe and advanced cases oxygen therapy is often beneficial with an oxygen bottle kept in the home for emergency use.attention needs to be given to improving the overall general health of the patient, in order to give the body the best possible chance of avoiding further complications. A change of diet to one rich in natural antioxidants, omega3 rich oils, fresh fruit and vegetables raw when possible and specific supplements such as magnesium may all contribute to a long term improvement in health of a person suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Also moderate exercise, particularly activities such as tai chi and chi kung together with plenty of fresh air will also be found to be of great help.