Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (otherwise known as COPD) affects 12 million Americans, and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It’s a blanket term for progressive respiratory issues that affect your body’s ability to filter carbon dioxide from your system and replace it with oxygen.
The symptoms are vast, but primarily include a chronic cough, producing mucus for extended periods of time, that becomes more frequent. The best action in fighting COPD is to prevent it all together. However, to prevent it, you need to know what makes someone a likely candidate for developing COPD. There are a handful of factors that put you at risk for this disease, and some of them you can stop in their tracks!
According to the Mayo Clinic, the main cause of COPD in developed nations is smoking tobacco. You’re at risk for smoking-related COPD if you smoke, or regularly inhale second hand smoke. Do you have asthma, and breathe in smoke or second hand smoke? Your risk factor is increased.
Cigarette smoke irritates your throat, bronchi, lungs, and alveoli (the tiny air sacs in your lungs). Your body’s response to irritation is inflammation and, in this case, the production of mucus as a protective coating. Prolonged mucus production and inflammation is known as Chronic Bronchitis. It inhibits your body’s ability to use your alveoli when filtering out the carbon dioxide and adding oxygen to your blood because they’re now covered in mucus.
Cigarette smoke also singes your alveoli, rendering them useless. Over time they can heal, but repeated smoking does not afford them that time. You can also damage them to a point that is irreparable. When this happens, it is known as Emphysema.
Prolonged exposure to excessive dust and/or chemicals through the course of your work can cause COPD. This is known as Occupational Exposure.
Men and women who work in construction, demolition, or around chemicals, are at risk for developing Occupational Exposure COPD. Asbestos, black mold, fumes, and concrete dust are just a few hazards you may be working around that increase your odds of having COPD.
If this sounds like you, please call your healthcare provider to make an appointment with us. We can assess your respiratory health, address your concerns, and help you find ways to mitigate your exposure (we can even begin a treatment plan if you are already developing COPD).
Genetic Disorder - Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency
In rare cases, about 1% of those diagnosed with COPD, the disease is caused by a deficiency in alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. It’s a genetic disorder that causes low levels of a protein (alpha-1-antitrypsin) your liver makes to help protect the lungs. Liver disease is likely to accompany if this genetic disorder is the cause of COPD. There is specific treatment available for this deficiency, and you’ll need to work closely with your doctor to figure out a plan that works best for you.
If you, or someone you know, are considered at risk for COPD, don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider. If caught early there are several treatments that despite lacking the ability to cure COPD can still help you live a long, active lifestyle.
You can also make an appointment at one of our clinics for general health check-up, or a more specific look at your respiratory system. We are here to help!
The outpatient AIRE Program (Accessible Intervention and Respiratory Education) at Orchard Hospital is designed to help you gain knowledge of your lung disease, manage your breathing problems and improve your exercise tolerance. In turn, this will help you to achieve your optimal ability to carry out activities of daily living, regain independence and improve your overall quality of life.
Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior healthcare. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.