What causes COPD?


Quick Answer

The primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is smoking, and it is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all cases, according to the American Lung Association. Toxic substances in cigarette smoke can narrow airways in the lungs, damage air sacs or alveoli and cause decreased defense against infection. Air pollution and fumes encountered at work can cause COPD as can a rare, inherited disorder called alpha-1 deficiency.

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Full Answer

The major symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath while performing routine activities, fatigue, chronic respiratory infections, cyanotic or blue color of the lips or nail beds, chronic cough and wheezing. Not everyone shows symptoms until later on in the disease, according to the American Lung Association.

If an individual is at risk for the disease or experiences symptoms, it is advisable to undergo spirometry, notes the ALA. This allows a physician to learn about the functional capacity of the lungs. Chest X-rays are also used to diagnose COPD. Once diagnosed, it is important to stop smoking. Inhalers are prescribed to keep the airways patent. A nebulizer is often used to make deep breathing easier. If COPD worsens, oxygen therapy may be ordered along with pulmonary rehabilitation that teaches a sufferer to manage his condition. On rare occasions, surgery is warranted.

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