COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the most common chronic lung disease. The term COPD stems from English and stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD results from chronic bronchitis. Inhalation of pollutants, predominantly through smoking, is the main risk factor for COPD. Coughing, sputum and difficulty are typical symptoms of this disease. COPD is treated by avoiding the risk factors and expanding the bronchial tubes with medication.
COPD is caused by a chronic inflammatory reaction in the bronchial tubes to pollutants, and above all smoking. However, as not all smokers develop COPD, it is assumed that those affected also have a certain genetic predisposition. Chronic bronchitis causes thickening and constriction of the bronchial tubes over time. This makes it particularly difficult to exhale and can lead to overblowing of the lungs, which is known as pulmonary emphysema.
Characteristic symptoms of COPD are usually a morning cough, sputum and breathing difficulties. The symptoms develop slowly over time. Breathing difficulties usually only occur if the COPD is in an advanced stage. The earlier that COPD is recognised and treated, the better the prognosis will be. The symptoms are unfortunately often dismissed by those affected as a harmless smoker’s cough, and are not checked by a doctor at an early stage. Every cough which lasts longer than two weeks should be checked by a doctor. Chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes also contributes to infection with bacteria and viruses. People with COPD therefore often suffer more frequently from colds or lung infections.
COPD is diagnosed on the basis of the patient’s medical history, the symptoms and with an examination of the lung function. This examination is known as spirometry and provides an insight into the severity of the COPD. This simple examination entails breathing into a small device which measures the respiratory flow.
There is no cure for COPD. The goal of the treatment is thus to improve the symptoms and to slow down the progression of the disease. Anti-inflammatory inhibitors and medications which expand the bronchial tubes are used to this end. The medication must usually be inhaled in the form of sprays. Antibiotics are administered to treat bacterial infections where necessary. However, the most important treatment measure of all is to avoid pollutants, i.e. stop smoking.