- Emphysema – damage to the air sacs in the lungs
- Chronic bronchitis – long-term inflammation of the airways
Symptoms of COPD
- Increasing breathlessness, particularly when you’re active
- A persistent chesty cough with phlegm – some people may dismiss this as just a “smoker’s cough”
- Frequent chest infections
- Persistent wheezing
Causes of COPD COPD occurs when the lungs become inflamed, damaged and narrowed. The main cause is smoking, although the condition can sometimes affect people who have never smoked. The likelihood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you’ve smoked. Some cases of COPD are caused by long-term exposure to harmful fumes or dust or occur as a result of a rare genetic problem that means the lungs are more vulnerable to damage.
Treatments for COPDThe damage to the lungs caused by COPD is permanent, but treatment can help slow down the progression of the condition.
- Stopping smoking – if you have COPD and you smoke, this is the most important thing you can do
- Inhalers and medications – to help make breathing easier
- Preventing infections- annual influenza vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine in appropriate age groups
- Pulmonary rehabilitation – a specialised programme of exercise and education
- Surgery or a lung transplant – although this is only an option for a very small number of people
COPD is largely a preventable condition. You can significantly reduce your chances of developing it if you avoid smoking. If you already smoke, stopping can help prevent further damage to your lungs before it starts to cause troublesome symptoms.
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