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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disease caused by cigarette smoking. Nearly 16 million Americans suffer from COPD. Millions of others without symptoms are in the early stages of the disease. COPD consists of two elements: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Jerome J. Slate, M.D., F.C.C.P., a pulmonologist at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, describes COPD as a progressive disease, even with therapeutic interventions. He notes that chronic bronchitis can improve with smoking cessation, but that emphysema represents a permanent injury.

Definition

A lung disease that consists of two elements: chronic bronchitis (chronic cough and sputum production) and emphysema (loss of elasticity of the alveoli).           

Cause

  • Cigarette smoking

Symptoms

  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath

Risk Factors

  • Smoking

Diagnosis

  • Symptoms
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Chest X-ray or chest CT scan
  • Pulse oximetry

Treatment

  • Smoking cessation
  • Bronchodilators
  • Inhaled or systemic steroids
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation, including exercise and perforance enhancement programs

Glossary

Alveoli - tiny sacs at the end of the bronchial tubes through which oxygen from inhaled air enters and carbon dioxide leaves the bloodstream.

Bronchodilators - medications that relax the muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes and allows them to expand.

Chronic bronchitis - inflammation along the inner surface of the bronchial tubes, a process that results in mucus production and impairment of airflow.

CT scan - a noninvasive diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-ray and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images of the body, showing detailed images of bone, muscle, fat and organs.

Emphysema - a destructive process of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. With loss of elastic recoil, there is increased work-of-breathing and shortness of breath. The ability of the alveoli to absorb oxygen is impaired by this destructive process.

Lung reduction volume surgery - the surgical removal of lung tissue in order to improve the expansion of the remaining lung.

Pulse oximetry - a noninvasive method of monitoring the amount of oxygen content in the blood.

Sputum - mucus and other material brought up from the lungs, bronchi and trachea that one may cough and spit out or swallow. 

Links

American Lung Association - http://www.lungusa.org/

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