Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that slowly damages the airways of the lungs. Specifically, COPD makes breathing difficult and contributes to inflammation of the lungs.
COPD risk factors and symptoms
COPD progresses slowly over the years, and may worsen more frequently in some people. In addition, the progression of the disease can limit the quality of life of sufferers, since it leads to breathlessness that limits their activities.
COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It affects around 700,000 Canadians, and generally develops after the age of 40 in people who have smoked. The disease is classified as mild to very severe, depending on the symptoms present.
Diagnosis and management of COPD
Several risk factors can lead to the onset of the disease, the main one being smoking, but heredity, air pollution, exposure to irritants, inhalation of chemicals over a long period of time and a history of respiratory problems in childhood are also involved.
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, persistent coughing (i.e. coughing for a long time), regular sputum production and audible rales. It’s also important to note that people with COPD can experience exacerbations of the disease. An exacerbation is defined as a crisis in which the symptoms of the disease visibly worsen.
Warning signs of a COPD exacerbation include worsening shortness of breath, coughing, increased secretions, fever, fatigue and certain cold symptoms.
As soon as these warning signs appear, the affected person should consult a professional as soon as possible, so that the appropriate treatment can be given.
Treatments and current studies
The diagnosis of COPD can be confirmed by a test called spirometry. This test is easy to perform. You’ll be asked to take a deep breath and then blow as hard and long as you can into a machine. It measures how much air you can get out of your lungs, and how fast. In addition to this diagnostic test, the severity of symptoms will be considered to classify the stage of the disease.
At present, there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but there are several ways of controlling it. For example, during an exacerbation, it is possible to manage symptoms by opting for bronchodilator treatment, i.e. medication that opens up the bronchial tubes.
When the airways are more open, it’s much easier to breathe. Antibiotic therapy can also be started if the person presents thick yellowish or greenish secretions. Antibiotics will counter the infection when present.
In fact, many exacerbations are caused by infection. Corticosteroids are also prescribed for exacerbations, to reduce inflammation in the lungs and speed recovery.
Participate in our ongoing studies
Studies related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are currently being recruited at our Val Bélair and Lebourgneuf clinics. You may be eligible to participate if you’re looking for a more effective treatment for COPD.
To find out more about the studies currently being recruited, please contact the Alpha Clinical Research team at 418-704-1112 (Lebourgneuf) or 418-847-1112 (Val-Bélair).