Am I at Risk for COPD?

Am I at Risk for COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disorder resulting in blocked air flow in the lungs, and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. 

"COPD affects 20 million Americans, with only half of them being diagnosed,” says Joseph Thorpe MD, a pulmonologist with TriHealth Pulmonary Medicine.

What Causes COPD?

COPD is the result of a combination of emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma, with smoking being the leading cause of COPD deaths, accounting for approximately 90 percent. Aside from smoking, other causes include:

  • Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Repeated respiratory infections

There is a small percentage of the population that is predisposed to developing COPD due to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, an inherited condition resulting in low levels or no protein in the blood.

COPD Symptoms:

The most common symptoms of COPD include:

  • Coughing
  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Sputum Production

Typically, patients schedule an appointment with their doctor, when they are experiencing difficulty breathing while performing normal, everyday tasks.

COPD Development:

According to Dr. Thorpe, individuals will experience COPD symptoms in their 40s or 50s, and will be diagnosed in their late 50s to early 60s. If you’re diagnosed under the age of 40, you’re usually an asthmatic. 

COPD will develop in 20 to 25 percent of smokers, and since smoking is a systemic effect, it may also cause:

COPD Treatment Options:

If you are diagnosed with COPD, there are a number of methods available today that can help manage the disease progression and severity, including:

  • Bronchodilators
  • Antibiotics
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Oxygen
  • Fluid cleaning device
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung transplant
  • Lung volume reduction surgery 

To best protect yourself from COPD, avoid tobacco products and reduce your exposure to environments where secondhand smoke, fumes and strong odors are present. By maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, you will promote good lung health and reduce your risks of COPD development.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic lung disorder, resulting in blocked air flow in the lungs, and is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

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Last Updated: October 24, 2013