Introduction to COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases. COPD is a group of lung diseases that make breathing difficult and worsen over time.

More than 65 million people worldwide have moderate or severe COPD. Let’s discuss COPD’s symptoms, causes, some facts and treatments which nobody talks about.

Normally, the airways and air sacs in the lungs are elastic or flexible. When you breathe in, the airways bring air into the air sacs. Airbags are filled with air like a small balloons. When you exhale, the air sacs deflate and the air disappears. If you have COPD, less air flows in and out of your airways because of one or more problems.

Untreated COPD can lead to faster disease progression, heart problems, and worsening respiratory infections.

Symptoms of COPD

Tobacco smoking causes up to 90% of COPD cases. Other causes include

  1.       Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, is a genetic disorder.
  2.       Passive smoking.
  3.       Air pollution.
  4.       Dust and fumes in the workplace.
  5.       Smoking

Tobacco smoke irritates the airways, causing inflammation (irritation and swelling) that narrows the airways. Smoke also damages the cilia so they cannot do their job of clearing mucus and trapped particles from the airways.

The facts of COPD  (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease )

  1.  COPD is the leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 16 million Americans and millions more who don’t even know they have it, and more than 10 million cases per year in India.
Global  India %of Global
Widespread Presence 595 M 93.5 M 15.69 M
Deaths 3.50 M 1.06 M 30.28 M
DALY’S 90.40 M 29.00 M 32.07 M

( DALY’S = disability-adjusted life year ) 

“ Global Burden Report of 2016 “

  1.  It is characterized by increasing shortness of breath, with symptoms developing slowly. Although there is currently no cure for COPD, it is often preventable and treatable. The most common cause is smoking.

3.  More than 65 million people worldwide have moderate or severe COPD, and experts predict that this number will continue to rise globally over the next 50 years.

3.  However, with the right treatment, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduce the risk of other related conditions, including heart disease and lung cancer.

What are the Signs or Symptoms of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

  •   Chronic Cough with phlegm that persists for a long time.
  •   Difficulty taking a deep breath.
  •   Shortness of breath with moderate exercise (such as walking or using stairs).
  •   Shortness of breath during normal daily activities.
  •   Wheezing.

People May Experience

  •  Cough: There are two main types of COPD coughs: wet cough and dry cough. A cough expelling mucus known as phlegm from your air tubes is called a wet or chesty cough as it serves a function.
  •  Respiratory: Frequent respiratory infections and sometimes shortness of breath, or wheezing.    
  •  Whole body: Fatigue(the feeling of being extremely tired)
  •  There are also some common signs such as Chest pressure, Loss of muscles, or Weight loss.

Causes or risk factors of COPD

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Long-term smoking or inhaling tobacco smoke or pollutants in the air damages the lungs and airways.

What increases your risk of COPD?

The following may increase your risk of COPD:

  •   Smoking:
  1.       This is a major risk factor for COPD. Most people with COPD have a habit of smoking. People who have a family history of COPD are more likely to develop it if they smoke.

2.      Smoking “weirder” types of tobacco, such as Chinese water pipes, can be even more harmful. In some cases, these may carry more risks than regular cigarettes.

3.      Studies show that people who are chronically exposed to secondhand smoke (all forms) may be at an increased risk of developing COPD.

  •  Other lung irritants:
  1.       These can be long-term exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust from the environment or workplace.

2.      Smoke from home cooking and unvented heating fuels, and second-hand smoke, which is smoke in the air from other people who smoke.

  • Changes in lung growth and development:

 Diseases affecting the lungs while the baby is still in the womb or in infancy can increase the risk.

  • Infections:

 Conditions like HIV and tuberculosis can increase your risk.

  • Age:
  1.  Your age may play a role in your risk of COPD if you have other risk factors, such as smoking.

2. Most people who have or are developing COPD are at least 35-40 years old when symptoms of COPD begin.

A condition that runs in families called alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency:

  1.   If you’re born with this condition, smoking or long-term exposure to fumes or dust can lead to lung damage and COPD.

2.  AAT deficiency may also increase your risk of developing COPD at a younger age.

  •  Asthma:

 About 1 in 5 people who have COPD also have asthma, a lung disease that causes swelling and narrowing of the airways.

  •  Genetic factors
  1. COPD usually develops in older people who have smoked for a long time. However, one type of emphysema has a genetic component. It is family-run.

2. It is also common among people of Northern European descent. People with this type of COPD are genetically deficient in blood components. This is known as an alpha-1-protease (alpha-1-antitrypsin [AAT]) inhibitor.

3. People with AAT defects may develop COPD at a younger age. If you have a close relative who had COPD in their 30s or 40s, you may be at risk of developing this type of COPD.

4. AAT deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test.

  •  Sex
  1.   COPD is more common in men than women.
  2.   This may have much to do with the high prevalence of smoking among men.
  3.   As the number of women with a significant smoking history increases, so does the number of COPD-related deaths among women.

Also Read-Difference between IPD and OPD

Treatments of COPD

There is currently no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but treatments can slow the progression of the disease and control symptoms.

Treatment includes

  1.       Quit smoking – If you smoke with COPD, this is the most important thing you can do.
  2.       Inhalants and tablets – make breathing easier.
  3.       Pulmonary rehabilitation – specialized programs in sports and education.
  4.       Surgery or a lung transplant – but this is an option for very few people.

Click and download the PDF of the Indian Initiative plan on the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Quit smoking

  1.   If you smoke, quitting is the most effective way to prevent COPD from getting worse.
  2.   Damage to the lungs and airways is irreversible, but quitting smoking can prevent further damage.
  3.   It may be the only treatment you need in the early stages of COPD, but it’s never too late to stop.


  1.    When COPD affects breathing, an inhaler is usually used. This is a device that delivers drugs directly to the lungs by breathing.
  2.    Your doctor or nurse will advise you on how to use the inhaler correctly and how often.

Also, Read about the fact that 2 Indians die every minute due to air pollution.


If inhaled medications do not control your symptoms, your doctor may recommend taking pills or capsules such as

  1.       Theophylline tablets
  2.       Mucolytics
  3.       Steroid tablets
  4.       Antibiotics

Pulmonary rehabilitation

It is a specialized exercise and training program designed to help people with lung problems such as COPD.

How much exercise you can do before you feel short of breath can help improve your symptoms, confidence, and emotional well-being.

A pulmonary rehabilitation program usually consists of two or more group sessions per week for at least six weeks.

Typical programs include

  1.      Exercises tailored to your needs and abilities, such as walking, cycling, and strength training.
  2.       Education about your condition for you and your family.
  3.       Dietary recommendations.
  4.       Psychological and emotional support.

Improve muscle strength

  1.   If you have severe flare-ups and are unable to exercise, electrical stimulation may be used to strengthen the muscles.
  2.   This is where electrodes are placed on the skin and small electrical impulses are sent to the weaker muscles (usually the arms and legs).


  1. Can a non-smoker get COPD?

Yes, a non-smoker can have the chance of getting COPD by Long-term exposure to pollutants:

Indoor and outdoor pollutants can cause COPD in non-smokers. Indoor air pollution is the most common cause of COPD in non-smokers.

2. What are the best medicines for COPD?


These reduce airway swelling. It is usually inhaled with an inhaler. Inhaled corticosteroids are useful in frequent exacerbations of COPD. If symptoms worsen, steroids may be taken in pill form.

Phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE-4) inhibitor

A drug called roflumilast (Darilesp) helps with severe COPD symptoms.

It reduces the swelling of the lungs and opens the airways. It can also be taken with long-acting bronchodilators. Side effects include diarrhoea and weight loss.


makes the lungs work better but does not control all symptoms.

 3. What are the Best practices to prevent COPD?

The most effective way to prevent COPD is to quit smoking or not smoke at all.

Quitting smoking is difficult, but there are many ways to make it easier. For example, some people use varenicline or nicotine replacement therapy to curb cravings. Quitting smoking may involve lifestyle changes such as avoiding social settings that encourage smoking. For example, going to a bar with a smoking friend.

People can use similar approaches to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, which increases the risk of developing COPD.

Cut this chain, breathe clean and make this world more beautiful.