Defining Chronic Inflammatory Lung Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is defined as the presence of airflow obstruction in the lungs due to excessive mucous production and permanent enlargement of the air spaces. Grouped together with asthma, it is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States. Over 14 million Americans suffer from this lung complication and it is believed that a similar number remain undiagnosed.

This chronic disease is suspected in people with a history of smoking

Causes of COPD

The primary cause of COPD in the United States is smoking tobacco with a history of smoking present in 80% of people with this medical condition. Chronic exposure to second hand tobacco smoke can also cause common lung disease. Chronic tobacco use cause destruction and abnormal permanent enlargement of airspaces in the lungs along with excessive mucous production and chronic daily cough.

How to Diagnose Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema?

Chronic lung disease is suspected in people with a history of smoking or repeated exposure to second hand smoke, chronic cough with mucous production, and difficulty breathing. The medical diagnosis made by formal lung function testing that confirms an obstructive breathing pattern and can assess the severity of the disease. Chest x-ray or CT scan of the chest that can reveal airway enlargement characteristic of the disease that should be verified by lung function testing.

Complications and Treatment Options

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can cause several problems such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia, abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure in the respiratory organ, heart failure, and pulmonary or lung failure. There are treatments for COPD, the most important of which is to quit smoking. Other treatments for include:

  • Inhalers to help open airways

  • Steroids to reduce inflammation

  • Antibiotics to treat infection

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation to strengthen lungs

  • Home oxygen therapy

  • Lung volume reduction surgery

  • Lung transplant

It is important that you follow up with your health care provider regularly to monitor your condition and adjust medications as appropriate.