Live life to the fullest with COPD treatment and management solutions designed to fit your lifestyle and support you at every stage
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) causes difficulties with breathing and increased breathlessness. With chronic bronchitis, the tubes (bronchi) that take air in and out of the lungs become inflamed, causing excessive mucus production and coughing. The presence of inflammation and mucus causes the bronchi to narrow. This not only limits the normal amount of air from reaching the lungs but also prevents them from fully deflating, leaving lots of residual air in the lungs1.
With emphysema, the presence of inflammation in the alveoli (air sacs) reduces their flexibility. In some cases, they collapse, making it difficult for air to enter and leave the lungs. As a result, they contain more air than normal, a state known as hyperinflation. The combination of hyperinflation and the extra effort needed to breathe results in the sensation of breathlessness1.
Stages of COPD
Understand the stages of COPD and treatment options for each
COPD is a term that covers a number of progressive lung conditions that make breathing difficult, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema¹. One of the main causes is prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, especially if the smoke is inhaled. However, breathing in second hand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes and dust from the environment or workplace can also cause COPD².
A chronic cough, one that lasts for several weeks without the presence of other illness such as cold or flu, is the first sign of COPD. The cough is usually worse early in the morning, and may be aggravated by exercise or smoke. Other typical symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest and increased mucus (or phlegm) production 1,2.
One of the main causes of COPD is prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, especially if the smoke is inhaled. But breathing in secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes or dust from the workplace also can cause the condition1.
These inhaled particles can cause the mucus glands that line the bronchi to produce more mucus than normal. In addition, the inflammation that they trigger causes the walls of the bronchi to thicken and swell. Environmental factors and genetics may also play a part in the development of COPD 1,2.
COPD has four stages, each one with different symptoms of increasing severity. However, by monitoring your symptoms and effectively managing them, it is possible to slow the progression of the disease and to enjoy a more active life1,2.
Combining a program of exercise, education and support, pulmonary rehab can help you live more comfortably with COPD by increasing your capacity for exercise and improving your mobility. You’ll learn about effective breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, the use of medication and oxygen, good nutrition and travel tips, as well as how to avoid flare-ups and stay healthy. Pulmonary rehab also provides an opportunity meet others with COPD to exchange experiences, provide mutual encouragement and increase determination to improve fitness levels and fight the disease1.
Genetics can play a part in the development of COPD, even if you have never smoked or been exposed to pollutants for an extended period of time. In particular, emphysema can be triggered by a deficiency in alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT), which is a protein that protects the lungs from the harmful effects of white blood cells in the lungs. However, not everyone with COPD who has never smoked has a deficiency on AAT, so it is believed that there must be other genetic triggers for COPD1.
2Lozano R, Naghavi M, Foreman K, et al. Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 2012; 380(9859): 2095-128.