CHRONIC-OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD)

Definition:
Chronic obstructive bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema often occur together. Chronic-obstructive bronchitis and pulmonary emphysema are described by the term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, abbreviated to COPD (a lasting, progressive disease of the lungs involving narrowing of the airways). Here the bronchi are not only inflamed, but also become narrower.

Causes / trigger:
The main factor here is smoking. 90% of all people with COPD are smokers or once used to smoke. Air pollution at the workplace also encourages the disease. COPD is the fourth most common cause of death in the world and is the consequence of chronic bronchitis.

Symptoms / signs / effects:
Shortness of breath - cough - sputum)In the advanced stage of the disease the cilia are destroyed, along with the cells of the mucous membranes. On exhalation the alveoli become unstable and collapse in on themselves. The inflamed bronchial mucosa thickens, so constricting the airways. The patients bronchitis now becomes chronic and obstructive. The small alveoli are also destroyed as the disease progresses, and pulmonary emphysema develops. The lung now looks like a balloon and no longer resembles a vine with grapes hanging from it. The later stages of the illness are characterised by pulmonary heart disease (= right ventricular failure), with water retention occurring in the legs and stomach.

Diagnosis:

  • Examination of the lung with a stethoscope
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Blood gas analysis
  • X-ray examination
  • ECG

Treatment:

  • Abstinence from nicotine and avoidance of dust
  • Treatment involving drugs to dilate the bronchi and where appropriate, corticoids as well as medication to control mucus with massive congestion (e.g. inhalation of saline solution)
  • Physical measures, e.g. tapping massages to help the patient cough up mucus as well as breathing exercises
  • Long-term oxygen therapy.