Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, commonly known as COPD, affects the lungs. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the main health problems of this disease. Cigarette smoking, exposure to lots of dust, and chemical vapors are some of the causes for COPD.
Chronic bronchitis is more common than emphysema, but chronic bronchitis can lead to emphysema. Emphysema is serious, because it can lead to death. The symptom of chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which lead to the lungs. This causes the bronchial tubes to produce large amounts of mucous. The longer this situation lasts, the more dangerous it becomes. The reason why it is dangerous is because the tiny hairs (cilia) that sweep away irritants from the air passages, may stop working.
Emphysema occurs, when the tiny air sacks in the lungs become larger and lose their elasticity. Because of this, the lungs become less able to get oxygen into the blood. This lack of oxygen causes shortness of breath.
Bronchitis can become chronic if someone has had many colds, repeatedly, followed by acute bronchitis. This means that a person with this problem, has permanent bronchitis. The same thing occurs with emphysema. It can become permanent.
A doctor should be seen as soon as shortness of breath occurs, and when there is a cough. In this situation, a doctor may prescribe a bronchodilator drug which can be taken orally or by inhalation. This can help relax the air passages. A patient should also ask the doctor if corticosteroids can help clear the
excess mucous that forms. It is also suggested that antibiotics and certain exercises can help build lung function.
Try these suggestions to help. If you are a smoker, and although it may be difficult to stop smoking, it is very important to give it up.
Call your doctor at the first sign of a cold or flu if it is a respiratory illness.
Drink six to eight glasses of water or juices a day. This will help clear the mucous so that breathing will become easier.
If you have emphysema, spread your meals out. This means, eat five or six meals, instead of your usual amount. By eating five or six meals a day, you avoid having a full stomach, which can cause breathing problems.
Do breathing exercises. You may have to ask your doctor about this.
Source: A Practical Guide to Everyday Health Decisions, Occupational Health and Preventive Medicine Department