Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name of a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. COPD is a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged and older adults who smoke or used to smoke, most of whom will not have any obvious symptoms until they reach their 40s or 50s.
COPD symptoms tend to get worse over time and can make daily activities difficult, however treatment can help slow the diseases progression. Sometime symptoms may suddenly get worse. This is known as a flare-up. It is common to have a yearly flare-ups, particularly during winter.
COPD is a chronic lung disease that is strongly linked to cigarette smoking. Other types of tobacco smoking, including pipes, cigars and water pipes, and smoking marijuana are also risk factors.
Additional risk factors for COPD include exposure to second-hand smoke and air pollutants (air pollution, chemical fumes or dust), genetics/family history and advancing age.
COPD symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient. The most common symptoms are chronic cough, saliva and mucus production, shortness of breath (especially with exertion) and fatigue.
Symptoms often progress slowly over time or may come and go in people with milder stages of COPD. Symptoms can also suddenly worsen (called acute exacerbation).
COPD is most commonly linked to smoking, but even non-smokers can get COPD. Risk factors for developing COPD include:
Exposure to second-hand smoke or other lung irritants, such as smoke from a fire or fireplace
Long-term exposure to chemical fumes and agents
Asthma and chronic bronchitis
Recurrent respiratory infections
Age and gender
Your doctor may test you for COPD if you have problems with shortness of breath, chronic cough, mucous production or recurrent respiratory infections.
COPD and asthma have similar symptoms, but they’re separate and unique lung conditions. Here’s how to know the difference:
Usually diagnosed after the age of 40
Symptoms persist despite treatment
History of exposure to lung irritants, such as tobacco smoke
Symptoms get worse over time
Chest X-ray shows lung changes
Usually starts before the age of 20
Is common in those with a family history of asthma or allergies
Symptoms tend to come and go
Symptoms respond to bronchodilator treatment or steroid treatment
Chest X-ray is normal
It’s important to get a correct diagnosis, because COPD symptoms of cough and shortness of breath are also symptoms of asthma. Talk to your Pure pharmacist or doctor about a referral to a pulmonologist, a doctor who specialises in lung conditions and diseases.
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