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Living with COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease causes suffering for a person and also shortens a person’s lifespan. COPD is an umbrella term that describes lung diseases like emphysema and bronchitis (What Exactly is COPD). Ninety percent of cases diagnosed for COPD are caused by inhaling cigarette smoke (Plenty of People Get COPD) over twenty-four million people in America have COPD but some people are more at risk for this disease than others (Plenty of People Get COPD). Most people who get COPD smoke cigarettes for years of their life. Others who are at risk are workers who work in conditions with pollutants such as dust and chemicals (Plenty of People Get COPD). For the most part though, this disease can be completely prevented if cigarettes are not smoked by a person.
First to understand COPD, it is important to understand how the respiratory system works. The lungs supply the blood and organs with oxygen (Body Systems). The lungs are able to draw air in and out from a muscle underneath them called the diaphragm. When a person inhales oxygen, it goes through the mouth or nose into the trachea, which is a tube that oxygen travels through (Respiratory System 2). Then it goes through bronchial tubes that separate, one for each lung, and then the bronchi separate even more, finally leading to air sacs called alveoli. Bronchial tubes are lined with cilia which are tiny hairs that act as filters and move particles and mucus out of the lung (Respiratory System 2). Alveoli are very fragile sacs that send oxygen into the bloodstream and also receive carbon dioxide which is released the opposite way in which the oxygen was received. Humans have about 600 million alveoli in the lungs (Body Systems).
Cigarette smoking makes it difficult for the lungs to function because it damages so many parts of the lungs. When a person smokes cigarettes over a long period of time it damages the alveoli making the intake of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide more difficult (How Cigarette Smoking Affects the Lungs). Since the bronchial tubes are irritated from smoke and tar, they become inflamed and the Celia becomes clogged. Since the cilia cannot work properly, mucus builds up and this is what causes breathing to be so difficult (How Cigarette Smoking Affects the Lungs). Another problem is that the alveoli lose their natural shape, which can even cause them to rupture, resulting in a lack of oxygen to the blood and inhibiting the way carbon dioxide is released (How Cigarette Smoking Affects the Lungs). There are a lot of ways that smoking affects the lungs, but damage to the alveoli and bronchial tubes affects COPD the most.
Statistical data and other information prove how harmful smoking really is to a person. Smoking causes more deaths in America than HIV, illegal drug use and alcohol use, car accidents, suicides and murders all combined (Tabaco Related Mortality). Each year in America, 393,600 people die a year from smoking-related deaths and 49,400 people die per year from secondhand smoke (Tabaco Related mortality). All of these deaths could be prevented if people did not smoke. COPD causes about 14,361 deaths per year in America (Deaths from COPD U.S.). With these huge numbers of deaths caused by smoking and the diseases being as preventable as they are, it is a wonder why people smoke at all.
The other ten percent of people who get COPD have it because they have been exposed to certain pollutants, or they breathed in second hand smoke (The Causes of COPD 3). Some of the people who have been exposed to certain pollutants have been exposed over long periods of time, usually because of the work they are involved in. Some examples of pollutants that cause COPD gas particles, radioactive particles, fine dust, and fossil fuels (The Causes of COPD 3).some occupations that involve these pollutants may include coal miners, construction workers, metal workers, cotton workers, or people who work in paper mills (The Causes of COPD 3). It has also been found in rare cases there is a genetic factor in getting COPD. This is caused by a recessive Alpha-1 trait that only affects about three percent of those diagnosed with COPD (The Causes of COPD 2). For the most part though, smoking is the leading cause of COPD (The Causes of COPD 3).
Symptoms of COPD can cause the person a lot of suffering on a daily basis. Symptoms of COPD include a constant cough. Also people with COPD have a hard time taking in deep breaths. People with this disease may also cough up mucus or wheeze (Symptoms) Coughing constantly can be crippling for a person and also very painful. COPD also causes other issues like lack of mobility (Mobility and COPD). A person with COPD may not be able to do the things they once could, and avoid physical activity in fear of not being able to breathe (Mobility and COPD). The lack of mobility can even go as far as causing depression in this person because they can’t do the things he or she may love (Mobility and COPD).COPD makes its presence known with these terrible symptoms.
Sometimes, people will have multiple types of COPD as a result of smoking (Bronchitis). One type of COPD is bronchitis. Bronchitis is a disease caused by blockage of the tubes that oxygen passes through. The tubes are called bronchi, and the blockage is caused by inflammation (Bronchitis). Bronchitis usually has flare-ups associated with viral infections and causes coughing and shortness of breath (Bronchitis). Another type of COPD is emphysema. Emphysema is associated with damage to the alveoli (Emphysema). When smoke damages the alveoli, they become enlarged and lose their shape, causing air to get trapped in the lungs which decreases the amount of oxygen that gets to other parts of the body also referred to as oxygenation (Emphysema).
There are ways to diagnose someone with COPD. If a person is over the age of 35 and they are experiencing symptoms of COPD it is important to get tested to slow the course of the disease (Greener 65). A way to test COPD is with a device called a spirometer, which measures the rate and the amount of air a person can blow out (Symptoms). The person will blow into this device and also may be given a chest x-ray (Symptoms). One problem with this device though is based on the results; it is hard to tell if the disease is COPD or asthma (Greener 65). This problem can be solved though with a series of questions asked by a doctor, which may involve history or if a person smokes or not (Symptoms). A lot of times people do not get tested formally because they think it are normal to have “smokers cough” (Symptoms). It is important to know if you have COPD though, because the course of the disease can be slowed down, ultimately adding years to a person’s life.
There is not a cure to COPD but it can be coped with through treatment which slows down the course of the disease (What Exactly is COPD). If a person is diagnosed with COPD the prevention and the treatment are the same; stop smoking (November is COPD Awareness Month). There are also ways to make breathing easier, but unless the person quits smoking the disease will cause an early death (Treatment Options). As far as helping the person to breathe some patients use oxygen tanks that pump oxygen directly into the lungs, allowing the person to not have to work as hard to breathe (Treatment Options). Sometimes inhalers are also used to help clear up mucus in the bronchial tubes (Treatment Options).
COPD affects millions of people in America (Plenty of People Get COPD). COPD is a very difficult disease to deal with because it turns something as simple as breathing into a difficult task. There are multiple types of COPD most commonly; Bronchitis which is the inflammation and clogging of bronchial tubes (Bronchitis) and emphysema is a result of damage to the alveoli (Emphysema). The key to preventing this disease is informing the public the dangers of smoking and if they choose to ignore this, they are choosing a shorter life. Ultimately the prevention and the treatment of COPD are the same except in cases of workers exposed to harmful chemicals (Plenty of People Get COPD). COPD is a disease that in most cases can and should be prevented by not smoking, but the ultimate cost of this disease is years off a human life.
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