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COPD: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


COPD: Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a chronic lung disease that primarily blocks the airflow to and from the lungs. In this health condition, the lungs are in an inflamed condition which causes significant difficulties in breathing, excess mucus, cough secretion, and other problems. If left untreated, COPD is a dangerous condition that can lead to severe heart troubles, lung cancer and other intense conditions.

Chronic bronchitis, emphysema and refractory asthma are three main conditions contributing to a significant lung disease like COPD. Emphysema is a condition where the bronchioles and their subsequent air passing parts named the alveoli are damaged. The damage is mainly done after long-term exposures to dangerous chemicals, polluted smoke from industrial areas, cigarettes, and other particulate matter.

Even a progressive and risky disease like COPD can be cured with proper management and treatment. Moreover, the risk of further lung diseases or subsequent lung cancer is reduced substantially. Here we talk more about causes, types, symptoms, treatments and effective preventions for COPD and avoiding long-term lung damage.


Causes of COPD


Many air-related problems can cause COPD. These issues are mainly long-term, and exposure to such pollutants can cause extreme COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Here are some of the common causes of COPD.

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, and tobacco smoke is a leading cause of COPD.
  • Passive smoking is another cause of COPD where you hang around other smokers and take in the smoke.
  • Asthma can weaken your lungs' functions, so the chances of attracting COPD are high.
  • If you are exposed to dust, air pollutants and chemical particulates, the chances of attracting COPD go high since they block the air passages of your lungs over time.
  • Age is yet another factor that contributes to attracting COPD. With age, the muscles and parts of the lungs tend to weaken; hence breathing trouble starts.
  • AAT or Alpha 1 Antitrypsin is a gene present in the human body. Lack of that can put you at risk for COPD. However, the chances of getting COPD through gene deficiency are quite low.


Types of COPD


Primarily, there are two types of COPD. Both of them are discussed in detail here.




Emphysema is a condition where the alveoli or the air sacs in the lungs are entirely damaged, unable to exchange breathable air. As a result of this damage, the sacs are dismembered and cannot perform properly during the expansion and contraction stage. However, the air is trapped due to improper expansion, which damages the alveoli even more.

Due to the hyperinflation of air in the lungs, the exchange of air is improper, causing severe breathing troubles. As a result, the body gets affected due to a severe deficiency of oxygenated blood.


Chronic Bronchitis


Chronic bronchitis can be a hazardous condition where the inner linings and walls of the lungs are inflamed, causing severe breathing issues. As a result, this leads to swelling and excessive accumulation of mucus within the lungs, blocking the airways. Hence, breathing becomes harder.


Symptoms of COPD


Since COPD is a lung condition that occurs over time, symptoms are very problematic to find. The symptoms appear after a long time. These symptoms do not appear or occur until the lungs are substantially damaged.

Here are some common COPD signs and symptoms to look out for.

  • Shortness or loss of breath quite often. Mostly during times of physical activities or sleeping.
  • Constant or excessive wheezing is a shrill whistle occurring due to blocked nasal or air passages.
  • Tightness in the chest area.
  • A constant and chronic cough, known as whooping cough. This usually leads to the secretion of excess mucus, which is mainly white, yellow, green or even blackish in colour.
  • Infections in the respiratory system.
  • Loss of energy and nausea.
  • Sudden weight loss after multiple days of suffering from lung issues.
  • Swelling in various joints of the body.

While these are some of the common COPD symptoms, patients suffering from COPD can experience periods of exacerbations. During this time, the symptoms become even more intense and worse than on other days and can last for several days.


Treatment for COPD


While there is no way to cure COPD completely, the COPD treatment methods can restrict the intensity of the problem. This is one disease that gives rise to other complications too. Hence treatment like medications and surgery can also help with those additional complications.

Here are some treatments for COPD.


Medical Treatment


  • Bronchodilators can be used as inhalers. They help to clear the air passage.
  • Corticosteroids are drugs that reduce inflammation in the lungs. These can be taken as pills or inhalers.
  • Combination inhalers can be used by pairing up drugs and related steroids.
  • Antibiotics are a great way to restrict lung infections.
  • Roflumilast or Daliresp is a drug that stops the flow of an enzyme known as PDE4 that causes flare-ups linked to COPD.
  • Flu vaccines lower the risk for lung diseases.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation can help where exercises and disease management methods are suggested to restrict lung problems.




  • Bullectomy can help to clear the bullae from the lungs. This causes the air sacs to return to shape.
  • Lung volume reduction surgery removes the damaged tissues in the lungs.
  • A lung transplant can help replace a damaged lung with a healthy one.


Prevention from COPD


Prevention for COPD is available but not so effective. It helps to control the risks of the disease. Here are some of them discussed.

  • Quit smoking to reduce the blockage and pressure on the heart and lungs.
  • Get regular vaccines against flu and pneumonia to effectively fight against infections.
  • Regularly consult your doctor on issues of loss of breath, chest pain, bloody mucus, etc.


Wrapping Up


COPD cannot be effectively cured but can be prevented through changes in lifestyle and external medication. You can also wear masks whenever you are outdoors to prevent the dust from affecting you more. Allergies and irritation in the chest and nose are yet another sign. Check on these symptoms and consult your doctor for effective help.



Dr. Vijay Kumar
Respiratory & Sleep Medicine
Meet The Doctor
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