COPD - A Chronic And Serious Respiratory Disorder

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious respiratory disease which is characterized by the complete or partial obstruction of airways. It occurs due to abnormalities in the airways and alveolar. It is a serious type of lung disorder which develops slowly and worsens over time and makes it difficult for a person to breathe. It is associated with the occurrence of various symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of death
  • Secretion of excess sputum
  • Unable to take a deep breath
  • Constant cough
  • Wheezing

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with various changes and these changes include mucus production, impairment of cilia, airflow obstruction, and gas exchange abnormalities. It involves two disorders - bronchitis and emphysema. 


Bronchitis is a respiratory disorder which is characterized by the swelling of bronchi (lining of the large airways) in the lungs. The inflammation of the bronchi causes the excess production of mucus that blocks the airflow through the lungs. Bronchitis is of two types - acute and chronic. 

  • Acute bronchitis is a short term disease that lasts for around 2 to 4 weeks. It can easily be treated.
  • Chronic bronchitis is a long term disease and this type of bronchitis belongs to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a serious type that worsens over time and can’t be cured.

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Bronchitis is accompanied by the occurrence of a wide range of symptoms that can vary from one person to another and some of them include frequent cough, noisy breathing, body aches, fever, runny nose, and fatigue. There are many causes of bronchitis and some of the common causes include smoking, bacterial infection, air pollution, and allergies. 


Emphysema is a chronic disease which is defined as the destruction of alveoli in the lungs that causes an impairment in the ability to bring oxygen into the body and to eliminate carbon dioxide. This causes the carbon dioxide to get trapped in the bullae and when the body demands for fresh air, it pushes the walls of the lungs with each new breath. This causes the lungs to expand and loses its elasticity, resulting in damaged tissues. 

Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of emphysema and this is because trapped carbon dioxide in the lungs leaves less space for fresh air. Apart from shortness of breath, it is also associated with other symptoms such as secretion of a lot of mucus, wheezing, reduced appetite, and fatigue

What are the stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious and progressive disorder which can be classified into four stages. 

Stage 1 - This is a mild stage of COPD in which the patient is suffering from lung damage but does not experience any symptoms. 

Stage 2 - This is a moderate stage of COPD in which persistent cough and mucus secretion occurs. Also, shortness of breath may occur when a patient is active. 

Stage 3 - It is a severe stage of COPD in which the shortness of breath becomes very common and other symptoms also start to affect every day work. 

Stage 4 - It is an extreme severe stage in which the lung infection becomes life threatening and its symptoms limits the daily activities. 

How chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and smoking correlated? 

Cigarette smoking is considered to be the most common cause of the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is strongly associated with this disease. Multiple number of studies have been conducted to investigate the role of smoking in the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When the body comes in contact with bacteria, viruses, dust, and dirt, the damage to the lungs happen. Smoking impairs the ability of the body to fight these factors.  Researchers observed that there are various mechanisms to explain their correlation. 

  • Normally lungs contain various systems that act as a defense system and prevents the lungs from damage caused by environmental factors like dust, bacteria, and viruses. Cigarette smoking causes damage to these defense system, resulting in the inability of the lungs to prevent damage.
  • Cilia is a tiny hair like structure lining the airways and is responsible for cleaning out the dirt and dust. Cigarette smoking causes damage to this structure which then becomes incapable to clean out dust and dirt.
  • Cigarette smoking is also associated with an increased production of mucus. As a result, the chances of an infection increases because the body takes time to clean the mucus.
  • The immune system in the body is the defensive system that protects the body against bacteria and viruses. Cigarette smoking decreases the ability of the immune system to protect the body against bacteria and viruses. As a result, the inflammation in the lining of the airways occur.

Some other risk factors for the occurrence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Although cigarette smoking is considered to be the leading cause of the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can occur in non-smokers as well. There are many other causative risk factors as well and some of them include:

  • Long term exposure to irritants could lead to the occurrence of this disease. Exposure to chemicals and dust for a long time could contribute to its development and cause airflow obstruction.
  • Many times deficiency of alpha 1 antitrypsin leads to the occurrence of this chronic disorder and this is known as genetic condition. It is one of the common causes among people who do not smoke.

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