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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD

COPD ( Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. Around 60 millions Indians are affected by the disease and approximately 9 lakhs people die each year in India due to COPD.

What Causes COPD?

Over time, exposure to irritants that damage your lungs and airways can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The main cause of COPD is smoking, but nonsmokers can get COPD too. The toxins in cigarette smoke weaken your lungs' defense against infections, narrow air passages, cause swelling in air tubes and destroy air sacs—all contributing factors for COPD.  Exposure to biomass smoke has also become a major risk factor for COPD in India. Mosquito coils used in homes to get rid of mosquitoes are another source of exposure in Indian homes; burning of one mosquito coil in the night capable of emitting particulate matter equivalent to those with around 100 cigarettes.

Other risk factors for COPD include:

  • Exposure to air pollution
  • Breathing secondhand smoke
  • Working with chemicals, dust and fumes
  • A genetic condition called Alpha-1 deficiency
  • A history of childhood respiratory infection


What are signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Many people don't recognize the symptoms of COPD until later stages of the disease. Sometimes people think they are short of breath or less able to go about their normal activities because they are "just getting older." Shortness of breath can be an important symptom of lung disease. If you experience any of these symptoms, or think you might be at risk for COPD, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.

  • Cough with mucus that persists for long periods of time.
  • Difficulty taking a deep breath.
  • Shortness of breath with mild exercise (like walking or using the stairs).
  • Shortness of breath performing regular daily activities.
  • Wheezing.

Remember: Don't wait for symptoms to become severe because valuable treatment time could be lost. Early detection of COPD is key to successful treatment.

Diagnosing COPD

To diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, ask for your complete health history, conduct a health exam and examine test results.


Spirometry measures how well your lung is functioning.  For this test, you blow air into a tube attached to a machine. This lung function test measures how much air you can breathe out and how fast you can do it. Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms develop. Your doctor also might use the test results to find out how severe your COPD is and to help set your treatment goals.

Other tests: Your doctor may also want you to have a chest X-ray and/or other tests, such as an arterial blood gas test, which measures the oxygen level in your blood. This test can show how well your lungs are able to move oxygen into your blood and remove carbon dioxide from your blood.

Treating COPD

When you are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you likely will have many questions and the answers may not always be clear at first. Not all people with COPD have the same symptoms and treatment may differ from person to person. It is important to talk to your doctor about your treatment options and to get answers to all of your questions.

COPD Medications

A variety of medicines are used to treat COPD and there is no "best" medicine for all people. Each person's COPD is different and your doctor and healthcare team will work with you to set up the best plan to address your symptoms and needs. Your doctor may recommend Bronchodilator, anti inflammatory medications, Oxygen, antibiotics, anti cholinergics, leukotriene modifiers, anti histaminics  etc.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

If you or someone you love suffers from a chronic lung disease like COPD, there is hope for rebuilding strength and enjoying a fuller, more active life. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs typically combine education, exercise training, nutrition advice and counseling.

Vaccinations: Respiratory infections are more dangerous when you have COPD. It’s especially important to get shots to prevent flu and pneumonia

How can I manage COPD at home?

You can take several steps to make breathing easier and slow the progression of the disease:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid air polluted by chemicals, smoke, dust or fumes.
  • Take prescribed medications as directed by your provider.
  • Ask your doctor about a pulmonary rehabilitation program, which teaches you how to be active with less shortness of breath.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get an annual flu shot.
The good news about COPD is that the symptoms can be managed. You’ll breathe easier if you take the necessary steps to support your lung capacity and fight lung irritation. By getting treatment early, you’ll have the best shot at continuing to do the things you love

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Dr. Smitakshi Medhi

MBBS, MD(Pulmonary Medicine)
Consultant Pulmonologist

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