Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also referred to as COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma, to name a few. The term “progressive” means that I can get worse over tie. COPD affects the oxygen exchange process that happens in the lungs. The lungs are made up of thousands of tube like airways that vary in sizes; with the bronchial tubes being the largest in diameter, followed by the bronchioles and the airways ending in the narrow tubes that connect to air sacs known as alveoli, which is where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occur. This disease is distinguishable by an increased difficulty in breathing. Signs of COPD include increased breathlessness, frequent coughing that can occur with or without phlegm, wheezing and tightness in the chest. COPD affects the air flow in the airways because of one or more of the following: the airways and the air sacs lose their elastic quality; the walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed; the walls of the airways become thick and inflamed; or the airways are clogged with mucus. COPD can be caused by many factors. The following is a list of 11 possible causes of COPD.
Long term cigarette smoking is so far the most significant cause of COPD. Smoking is accounted for 8 out of 10 COPD cases. The increase in the risk of having COPD is directly related to the number of years of smoking and the number of packs smoked. A cigarette contains more than 4000 chemicals. This includes 43 known carcinogenic, or cancer causing, compounds and another 400 toxins. These chemicals include nicotine, tar, ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic and even carbon monoxide. With all these chemicals in one stick of cigarette, it is bound to contain one or more irritants that can cause COPD.