Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive condition involving a constant obstruction of the airways, which results in difficulty breathing. COPD usually includes emphysema and/or chronic obstructive bronchitis. Both of these conditions usually develop from long-term cigarette smoking. In some cases, however, COPD can be caused by other irritants, such as air pollution and chemical fumes.

Causes of COPD: Most cases of COPD are caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants such as cigarette smoke, secondhand smoke, air pollution and chemical fumes that damage the lungs and irritate the airways.

COPD is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged and older adults, although some younger patients may be diagnosed because of an alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic condition.

  • Symptoms of COPD
  • Chronic cough with mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest

Patients with COPD may also experience frequent colds or flu, along with swelling in the ankles, feet and legs in severe cases. Symptoms worsen over time, and may require a hospital stay if they become severe enough or do not respond to treatment.

Diagnosing COPD

After evaluating your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may perform lung function tests or a chest X-ray to diagnose COPD. A lung function test measures how much air you can breathe in and out, how fast you breathe and how well the lungs carry oxygen to the blood. The most common lung function test is called spirometry.

Treatment of COPD

Since COPD is a chronic condition, there is no cure currently available. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and slowing the progress of the disease, allowing patients to enjoy an active and healthy life . The most important step that patients can take in treating COPD is to quit smoking. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to relax the muscles and relieve inflammation around the airways, oxygen therapy or pulmonary rehabilitation. Surgery may be performed for severe cases of emphysema to clear the airways from large obstructions.


Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. These blockages can cause mild coughing to full blown asthma attacks.

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Trouble sleeping due to coughing
  • Whistling sound when exhaling

If it is severe, asthma can result in decreased activity and inability to talk. Some people refer to asthma as “bronchial asthma”.

Inadequate treatment of the disease limits the ability to exercise and be active. Poorly controlled asthma can lead to multiple visits to the emergency room and even hospital admission, which can affect your performance at home and work.

Asthma Diagnosis and Treatment:

Cases of asthma can vary from occurring a few times a week up to a few times everyday. Certain diagnostic tests like a spirometry and peak flow can be used to diagnose asthma if these symptoms are present. Although asthma is a serious condition with no cure, it can usually be controlled through long-term medications. Quick-relief medications can also be used to treat attacks.  It is important to monitor your asthma symptoms and take measures to avoid triggers and prevent serious attacks.


Bronchitis is a condition that often develops after a cold or other respiratory infection. As cold symptoms subside, you may develop a slight fever or the chills, along with a cough. Bronchitis can also develop from cigarette smoke or other pollutants and may be a chronic form of the condition.

Symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • Wheezing
  • Fever and chills
  • Chest congestion
  • Burning or constricted feeling in chest

Fortunately, like a cold, symptoms of bronchitis usually go away on their own after a few days. Getting plenty of rest and drinking liquids can help speed the process.


Emphysema is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that is characterized by loss of elasticity in the alveolar tissue, usually caused by toxic chemicals within the body. The blood vessels feeding the alveoli are killed by these chemicals, causing air to become trapped in the lungs in collapsed regions of bronchioles. Gradually, the deterioration leads to significant decreases in lung surface area that make it difficult for the body to maintain oxygen levels in the blood, despite hyperventilation.

Most cases of emphysema are completely preventable, as they are caused by easily avoided substances. The most common of these is smoke from tobacco, which has many toxic chemicals that become trapped in the alveoli. The body’s natural inflammatory response then overcompensates by sometimes rupturing the alveolar septum, reducing the elasticity of the tissue and causing large bulbous pockets of stagnant air to form. Emphysema can also be caused, or simply exacerbated, by the existence of a genetic disorder known as Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency. The shortage of this enzyme causes further vulnerability of the alveolar elasticity.

Although there are a plethora of treatments for emphysema, it is considered a degenerative condition that cannot be cured. In order to successfully recover from this condition, it is important for patients to both quit smoking and avoid all cigarette and cigar smoke at all costs. Other common treatments include:

  • Anticholinergics
  • Steroid medication
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Bronchodilators
  • Supplemental oxygen

Lung Cancer

The lungs are essential organs within the respiratory system that help you breathe by taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Lung cancer is one of the most common and deadliest types of cancer, killing more people each year than colon, prostate, ovarian, lymph and breast cancer combined.

Most cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, which may include secondhand smoking as well. In some cases, people who have never smoked or had prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke may develop lung cancer as a result of excessive alcohol use, certain lung diseases or a family history of lung cancer.

Patients with lung cancer may not experience any symptoms during the early stages, which can make diagnosis difficult. As the disease progresses, patients may experience:

  • Chronic cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Unexpected weight loss

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the severity of the condition and the overall health of the patient, but may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or medication. A combination of treatments may be used in order to achieve the most effective results for each individual patient. Some patients may not need any treatment other than monitoring the disease, or may choose not to undergo certain treatments because of the associated side effects.

Your doctor will help you decide which treatment is best for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition, as well as your medical history and overall health.


Tuberculosis — or TB, as it’s commonly called — is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of the body, like the brain and spine. A type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes it.

How Is It Spread?

Through the air, just like a cold or the flu. When someone who’s sick coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs, or sings, tiny droplets that contain the germs are released. If you breathe in these nasty germs, you get infected.

TB is contagious, but it’s not easy to catch. The germs grow slowly. You usually have to spend a lot of time around a person who has it. That’s why it’s often spread among co-workers, friends, and family members.

Tuberculosis germs don’t thrive on surfaces. You can’t get the disease from shaking hands with someone who has it, or by sharing their food or drink.

How Does Tuberculosis Affect Your Body?

A TB infection doesn’t mean you’ll get sick.

Latent TB: You have the germs in your body, but your immune system stops them from spreading. That means you don’t have any symptoms and you’re not contagious. But the infection is still alive in your body and can one day become active. If you are at high risk for re-activation — for instance, you have HIV, your primary infection was in the last 2 years, your chest X-ray is abnormal, or you are immunocompromised — your doctor will treat you with antibiotics to lower the risk for developing active TB.

What Are the Symptoms of TB?

      • A cough that lasts more than 3 weeks
      • Chest pain
      • Coughing up blood
      • Feeling tired all the time
      • Night sweats
      • Chills
      • Fever
      • Loss of appetite
      • Weight loss

Who’s at Risk?

You’re more likely to get TB if you come into contact with others who have it. Here are some situations that could increase your risk:

A friend, co-worker, or family member has active TB disease. You live or have traveled to an area where TB is common, like Russia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. You’re part of a group where TB is more likely to spread, or you work or live with someone who is. This includes homeless people, people with HIV, and IV drug users. You work or live in a hospital or nursing home.

Sleep Disordered Breathing

Sleep disorders are common conditions that involve difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up. Sleep disorders may develop as a result of changes in the brain regions and neurotransmitters, stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits or many other possible causes. By not getting sufficient sleep at night, many people are affected during the day and may have difficulty completing their everyday activities.

These conditions involve breathing irregularities while sleeping, which can result in loud noises, blocked airways and interrupting sleep. If left untreated, sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.


What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection caused by a virus, bacteria or fungus and can be mild or very severe. Symptoms of pneumonia can vary depending on the cause of the disease. They may be similar to symptoms of a cold or the flu, and can include:

      • High fever
      • Chills
      • Breathlessness
      • Chest pain
      • Cough that produces mucus

What causes pneumonia?

Germs called bacteria or viruses usually cause pneumonia.

Pneumonia usually starts when you breathe the germs into your lungs. You may be more likely to get the disease after having a cold or the flu. These illnesses make it hard for your lungs to fight infection, so it is easier to get pneumonia. Having a long-term, or chronic, disease like asthma, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes also makes you more likely to get pneumonia.

How is pneumonia diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may order a chest X-ray and a complete blood count (CBC). This is usually enough for your doctor to know if you have pneumonia. You may need more tests if you have bad symptoms, are an older adult, or have other health problems. In general, the sicker you are, the more tests you may need.

Your doctor may also test mucus from your lungs to find out if bacteria are causing your pneumonia. Finding out what is causing your pneumonia can help your doctor choose the best treatment for you.

How is it treated?

If pneumonia is caused by bacteria, your doctor will give you antibiotics. These almost always cure pneumonia caused by bacteria. Pneumonia caused by a virus usually is not treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, antibiotics may be used to prevent complications. But home treatment, such as rest and taking care of your cough, usually is all that is done.

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