Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that is characterized by airway obstruction, poor airflow, and long-term breathing complications. Major symptoms include persistent shortness of breath, especially during activities, and production of sputum. COPD is naturally a progressive disease because the condition of the patient exacerbates over time. Some patients eventually develop severe complications that limit everyday activities such as dressing and walking. Traditionally, COPD was referred as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, which are now recognized as contributing factors. With proper management, COPD patients can achieve symptom control and good quality of life.
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Causes of COPD are varied because the lungs are constantly exposed to infectious agents in the air. The most attributed causes are tobacco smoke, pollution, and occupational exposure to fires. Exposure to these causes must occur for an extended period of time before a person develops the disease. Tobacco is considered a primary risk factor considering that 20% of smokers usually contract COPD and long life smokers have a high likelihood of developing the disease. Current research shows that 80% to 90% of COPD patients in the United States and the United Kingdoms are current smokers or were previous smokers (Cecil, Goldman, & Schafer, (2012). Therefore, the chance of contracting the disease increases with long-term exposure to smoke.
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In developing countries, the most prevalent cause of COPD is poorly ventilated fires that are fueled by raw fuels like biomass and wood. According to Vestbo at al. (2013), 3 billion people around the world rely on raw fuels for cooking and heating purposes, leading to increased exposure to fires and a higher risk for contracting obstructive lung diseases like COPD. Prolonged and intense exposure to workplace fumes, chemicals, and dusts also leads to a higher risk in both smokers and nonsmokers. Indeed, workplace exposure accounts for 10% to 20% of COPD cases.
Another deeply contested cause is genetics. Vestbo at al. (2013) claim that COPD is common in relatives of smokers who suffer from the disease and less common in unrelated smokers. One of the possible hereditary genetic factors include the alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency (AAT) which is high in people who are deficient in alpha 1-antitrypsin. The link between genetics and COPD is currently under investigation. Other distantly linked factors are socioeconomic status, malnutrition, asthma, birth factors, and respiratory infections.
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Signs
COPD symptoms often appear after significant lung damage and usually exacerbate with time, especially in patients who remain exposed to causes. Daily coughs and mucus production are the most widespread symptoms among patients. Others gins include frequent clearing of the throat due to excess mucus in the lungs, wheezing, lack of energy, blueness of fingernails and lips, frequent respiratory infections, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and unintended weight loss.
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In 2015, the total number of COPD cases reported worldwide averaged at 174.5 million which represents 2.4% of the global population. COPD resulted in 3.2 million deaths in the same year with 90% of deaths occurring in developing countries. The illness is reported more in elderly people above the age of 40. Prevalence of COPD is twice as much in males than females. However this ratio may change with the increasing levels of smoking and exposure to biomass fires among women in developing countries. Prevalence also varies with geographical regions. The disease is recurrent in Southeast Asia at a rate of 12.5%, which is believed to be a high incidence quotient. COPD is a serious cause of mortality in the United States population with a death rate of 100,000 annually (Doney et al., 2014). Europe has a relatively low prevalence but there is a deficiency in data, even on the worldwide front. Only handful of studies have studied occurrence of the disease in the African continent and the Mediterranean region (Raherison & Girodet, 2009). Studies conducted in the Asian and African regions have only produced rough estimates of chronic bronchitis (Raherison & Girodet, 2009). The definition of COPD is somewhat complicated in the two continents because of a high prevalence of respiratory infections like tuberculosis.
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Treatment
There is a range of prevention and treatment measures that constrain and manage occurrence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Preventive measures consist of smoking cessation, occupational health solutions, and improved air quality. All COPD cases can be deterred by decreasing exposure to causes. Annual influence vaccinations may help reduce execrations, hospital admissions, and deaths (Mackay & Hurst, 2012). Although a cure is currently inexistent, COPD is manageable. The goals of managing the disease are to delay progression, reduce risk factors, avert exacerbations, handle stable COPD, and control related illnesses. Proven measures for reducing mortality rates are administration of supplemental oxygen and smoking cessation (Drummond, Dasenbrook, Pitz, Murphy, & Fan, 2008).
People who stop smoking can reduce the risk of death by 18% (Zubair, & Sardar, 2015). Other suitable solutions include pneumococcal vaccination once every half a decade, influenza vaccination every year, and reducing exposure (Carlucci, Guerrieri, & Nava, 2012). In advanced cases, palliative care can reduce symptoms and morphine administration can lessen shortness of breath and improve feelings. Personalized education plans, training and education, as well as support are necessary in every Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease patient for their overall wellbeing.
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