What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): causes and symptoms

Everytime that Felicity Payne I went to the family doctor for his irritating cough (who had suffered for many months) the diagnosis was always the same: asthma. So they prescribed a inhaler of steroids to be used twice a day and another medication to dilate the respiratory tract when necessary. After a year the British girl continued with her disease and, worst of all, it was getting worse.

She often ran out of breath, was exhausted all the time and I fought daily for maintaining an active lifestyle. Years ago this woman walked every day with enthusiasm, running at a moderate pace and always took care of her five grandchildren, but each time she felt more faint and without strength. In addition, he had numerous lung infections They had her off for several weeks and there was a strong reason for everything that happened to her.

He really did not have asthma but a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease in which inhalers are not only ineffective but can also lead to more serious problems and worsen the situation. Two years after that visit they managed to find the correct diagnosis with a simple test, the problem? That this situation is not infrequent at all.

The number of cases of COPD in Spain has been updated from the 2.1 million estimated according to EPISCAN in 2007 to 2.9 million in 2015 according to the international study Global Burden of Disease (GBD 2015). In the same way, mortality in our country has increased 18,000 annual deaths at 29,000. It has become the fourth cause of death among the Spanish, representing 6.95% of deaths, according to the Spanish Society of Pulmonology and Thoracic Surgery (SEPAR).

Causes and symptoms

COPD is a general term for different progressive lung diseases such as emphysema wave chronic bronchitis. It is very different to asthma, an allergic condition caused by exposure to allergens. Those affected with this condition struggle to get air in and out of their respiratory organs because there is damage to the lung sacs and an inflamed and narrow airway.

It is important to maintain a healthy diet. Overweight or excessive thinness have an unfavorable influence on its evolution

Symptoms include difficulty in breathing, cough, mucus production (sputum) and whistling. It is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particles, in most cases of tobacco smoke, although pollution and genetics are also two influential factors. In addition, people who suffer from it have a higher risk of heart problems, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.

There's a common mistake among the general practitioners in believe that COPD only affects smokers or people who have left it in the last two years. In fact, there is a significant proportion, such as Felicity, who left him 30 years before any symptoms appeared. "They are very good at diagnosing asthma, but not in other types of respiratory diseases like this one, and it's a big problem," he says. Peter Barnes, professor of medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute.

Complications and prevention

This disease can cause respiratory infections: people who suffer from it are more likely to suffer from colds, flu or neuomy. Any problem breathing can cause more damage to the lung tissue. Annual vaccination can prevent some diseases. There are also chances that your heart fails: for reasons that are still unknown, it increases the risk of having some heart disease, lung cancer, high blood pressure and depression.

Unlike other diseases, COPD has a clear cause and a mode of prevention. Most cases are directly related to smoking and the best way to prevent it is Do not smoke or quit immediately. If you have been a smoker for a long time and have not been able to remove the cigar from your mouth, you should keep trying. It is very important to find a program that will help you to give up the habit forever. It's your best chance to not hurt your lungs.

COPD is a general term for different progressive lung diseases such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis

If you work with any type of toxic chemical (sprays, paints, solvents, dust, traffic smoke …), it is possible that this type of lung irritant is causing it. Talk to your supervisor about the best ways of prevention, such as using a respiratory protection equipment. Further, cold and changes in temperature can be a problem for people with this disease. All rooms in the house must be maintained at the same temperature between 19º and 21º.

It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. An adequate weight is very important because both overweight as excessive thinness influence unfavorably in the evolution of this condition. Drink plenty of fluids helps keep the airways clean or with thinner mucus. The best? The water, being necessary an approximate quantity of 1.5 liters a day. You must also prevent constipation, so it is advisable to follow a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and increase the consumption of whole grains.

New treatments

The therapeutic management of COPD is changing in the last decade with the arrival of new inhaled medications from the group of long-acting adrenergic agonists (LABA), long-acting anti-muscarinics (LAMA) and inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).

Inhalers for asthma are not only ineffective but can also lead to more serious problems and make the situation worse when you suffer from COPD

This new therapeutic landscape provides a wider range of options that will allow improvements in symptomatology, tolerance to effort and quality of life. However, there are currently several clinical trials underway worldwide, involving thousands of patients and analyzing the effectiveness of innovative medicines that may be able to slow the progression of the disease.