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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - Essay Example

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The research paper describes a lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, its symptoms and signs, and possible methods of diagnosis. Even though reversing the damage on the lungs could be almost impossible, appropriate measures could be taken to prevent further damage…
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Introduction Basically described, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD refers to a lung disease which normally makes breathing difficult. The damage inflicted on the lungs over time, particularly due to smoking, results in the disease (Currie 2009). To understand this disease, a comprehension of the working of the lungs would be critical. Inhaled air goes down the windpipe into the airways referred to as bronchial tubes. In the lungs, these bronchial tubes branch into numerous tubes known as bronchioles. These end up in bunches of tiny air sacs referred to as alveoli. The air sacs and airways are elastic and the air sacs fill up with air on inhalation and deflate on exhalation like a balloon. According to Currie (2009), COPD results from a combination of two diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema; hence, in essence, COPD does not refer to a single disease but rather an umbrella term describing chronic lung diseases. Chronic bronchitis would normally involve the inflammation of bronchial tubes, being the airways that transport air to the lungs, and production of a lot of mucus. With emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs which get bigger and smaller to transport air in the lungs get damaged and lose elasticity thus limiting the air that gets out and into the lungs. In both scenarios, the patient would develop breathing difficulties. According to World Health Organisation (2013), despite the familiarity of these two terms, they are no longer used in defining COPD, but would still be included in diagnosing COPD. Cigarette smoking has been considered as the common cause of the disease though inhaling other irritants such as dust, chemicals and other pollutants could also cause COPD. Symptoms and Signs COPD has been largely associated with coughing accompanied by production of a lot of mucus. This could be accompanied by chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath. A majority of the signs for COPD could also be seen in other diseases. These include wheezing heard by use of a stethoscope, chest enlargement referred to as hyperaeration, breathing through pursed lips and active use of neck muscles during breathing. Currie (2009) also observes that COPD patients would exhibit rapid breathing rates and a barrel chest, referring to increased chest’s anteroposterior to lateral ratio. Diagnosis There exists no sole symptom that wholesomely excludes or confirms COPD diagnosis. COPD commonly affects those below 40 years of age. It would be considered for those people with chronic cough, sputum production, dyspnea and those previously exposed to risk factors such as habitual tobacco smoking. Since COPD is not just a smoker’s cough as put by WHO (2013), tests must be done to ascertain the disease. Currie (2009) documents one of the tests, spirometry, which refers to the test meant to measure in one second the forced expiratory volume, FEV1, referring to the greatest air volume that can be exhaled in a large breath’s first second. Additionally, it measures the greatest air volume to be exhaled in the whole of a large breath, referred to as forced vital capacity, FVC. A FEV1/FVC ratio of less than the normal 70% gives an indication of COPD. Other than spirometry, chest x-ray could be used for confirmation of COPD, indicated by over-expanded lung, referred to as hyperinflation, bullae, increased retrosternal airspace and flattened diaphragm. Arterial Blood Gas, ABG, which refers to the blood obtained from an artery, could be tested for gas levels. High carbon dioxide content or low oxygen content, the latter referred to as hypoxaemia, would confirm COPD. Reactive polycythemia, referring to high blood count in blood samples from the vein, could also be a confirmatory test. Prognosis The WHO (2013) predicts that by 2030, COPD would be the third leading cause of death in the world. As such, its prognosis forms an important aspect of this paper so as to determine appropriate preventive measures to undertake. Among the factors that could predict this disease include continued smoking and poor exercise capacity. Currie (2009) acknowledges that significant overweight or underweight could also predict this disease. Others include severe airflow obstruction indicated by low FEV1, respiratory complications and frequent acute exacerbations. The Bode Index plays a significant role in COPD prognosis. This is a scoring system that estimates COPD outcomes using FEV1, 6-minute walk distance, body-mass index and customised MRC dyspnea scale. Conclusion In summary, COPD is a disease that results in limited airflow into and out of airways because of loss of elasticity in the air sacs and the airways, destruction of the walls between air sacs, thickening and inflammation of the walls of airways and unusual making of more mucus which could clog the airways. COPD gradually worsens and could lead to death. Even though reversing the damage on the lungs could be almost impossible, appropriate measures could be taken to prevent further damage, majorly reducing cigarette smoking. References Currie, G 2009, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Oxford University Press, Oxford, OX. World Health Organisation 2013, Chronic respiratory diseases, Geneva, Switzerland, viewed 24 April 2013, http://www.who.int Read More
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