Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive form of lung disease ranging from mild to severe. It is characterized by a restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. COPD is the umbrella term for sufferers who have been diagnosed with or show signs of emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.
Many sufferers have trouble walking short distances and are especially susceptible to illness and pneumonia. Often, sufferers need oxygen support 24 hours a day. If you show signs of emphysema or chronic bronchitis you may have COPD. The long term effects of COPD result in an enlargement of the right side of the heart and eventual death. There is no cure for COPD but treatment options are available to prevent more damage and improve quality of life.
The number one cause of emphysema is cigarette smoking. The toxins in cigarette smoke destroy tissue and cause inflammation of the lungs. Imagine soaking a sponge in red paint, when you squeeze the sponge most of the red paint comes out. However, a residual paint is left inside the sponge that may take several minutes of scrubbing to wash out. The toxins from cigarette smoke have the same effect on your lungs.
When you smoke a cigarette, the toxins are inhaled into the lungs soaking the passageways and air sacs. The structure and elasticity are destroyed. When you breathe out, only some of the toxins leave your body. In the case of the sponge, you can eventually wash the paint out. Unfortunately, you can never fix the damage that is done to your lungs.
When cigarette smoke is repeatedly inhaled, the cilia or hair-like structures responsible for clearing mucus and other secretions, disappear. As a result, mucus is unable to clear from the lower respiratory tract causing “smokers cough.” Mucus build-up provides an advantageous environment for bacteria to grow and spread, which can lead to infection. The lungs are unable to fight off this infection because the toxins in cigarette smoke have destroyed the immune cells responsible for fighting bacteria. As a result, sufferers of emphysema are prone to chronic illness.