17th November is World COPD Day!

By Dr. Inder Mohan Chugh in Pulmonology

Nov 14 , 2016 | 2 min read

Commonly known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), this condition develops slowly and progresses with time. It becomes difficult for a person to breathe and their condition may worsen overtime.

It is the third leading cause of death across the world.

This chronic condition can be the major cause of disability. There are millions of people who are suffering from this disease. Many are diagnosed while so many remain undiagnosed.

Symptoms of COPD

  • Shortness of breath- Hard time catching your breath or talking
  • Coughing-ongoing or persistent (smoker’s cough)
  • Chest tightness
  • Large amount of mucus
  • Fingernails turn blue/dark
  • Patient is not mentally alert
  • Swelling in the ankles and feet
  • Heartbeat is fast

Note: All these symptoms develop slowly and limit the ability of the patient to do physical activities like cooking, walking, or doing routine activities.  Over a period of time these symptoms may become severe and you may have to see a doctor for emergency care:

What causes COPD?

The disease is generally diagnosed in middle-aged people (40 years or older). The most common causes of COPD are:

  • Smoking (cigarette, bidi, hookah) – It is the main leading cause of COPD.
  • Long-term exposure to air pollution,
  • Chemical fumes
  • Dust
  • Chullah smoke may also cause COPD.

Are there any conditions involved?

COPD includes two main conditions:

EMPHYSEMA—In Emphysema, the air sacs and their walls get damaged and larger air sacs are formed instead of small ones.

Chronic BRONCHITIS- In Chronic Bronchitis, the lining of the air tubes is inflamed and thickened. This produces a large amount of mucus (balgam) and makes it hard to breathe.

Is there any Diagnosis?

Your doctor or pulmonologist will diagnose COPD based on your signs and symptoms, history, physical examination and tests reports. Below mentioned are few tests-


PFT measures how much air you can breathe in and out and how fast you can do it and how well your lungs are working to deliver oxygen to your blood. PFT is painless test and a technician will ask you to take a deep breath and then blow as hard you can into a tube connected to PFT machine.

PFT is the most important test for the diagnosis and management of COPD. PFT is similar to ECG of the lungs.

What are the treatment options for COPD?

COPD has no cure yet with a correct treatment you can feel better, stay more active and slow the progress of the disease.

  • Quit Smoking
  • Avoid lung irritants like chemical fumes, dust, heavy air pollution, second-hand smoking.
  • Medicines- Bronchodilators through inhalation route like puffs (inhalers), rota caps, nebulizers. They allow the medicine to go straight to your lungs and are more effective.
  • Vaccination- Flu (Influenza) shots and Pneumococcal (Pneumonia) vaccine
  • Oxygen therapy - Patients with advanced disease need home oxygen therapy.
  • Surgery - Some patients need surgical treatment.

Living with COPD

Patients should manage their symptoms and slow the progress of the disease by:

  • Avoiding irritants/smoking.
  • Get ongoing care
  • Manage the disease and its symptoms.
  • Prepare for emergencies.

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