Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, February 15, 2018 by

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the collective term for a group of progressive lung conditions that make it difficult to breathe. The most common of these are:

  • Chronic bronchitis  An inflammation of the bronchial tubes, people with chronic bronchitis will have a persistent cough that brings up thick, sticky, and discolored mucus. The inflammation causes mucus to build up in the airways and restricts airflow going into and out of the lungs. This can lead to breathing difficulties such as shortness of breath and wheezing.
  • Emphysema — An irreversible condition that results in the destruction of alveoli, or the air sacs in the lungs. On top of making it harder to breath, emphysema can compromise lung elasticity as well.

People can have one or both of these disorders at the same time, though the severity and frequency tend to vary from person to person.

In the United States, the primary cause and risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is smoking. As much as 75 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients used to or continue to smoke. Apart from this, people can acquire chronic obstructive pulmonary disease through long-term exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes, environmental dust and dirt, and secondhand smoke. Having a family history of this disease and certain genetic factors (such as an alpha-1 antitrypsin) can predispose one to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Known side effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

People who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease tend to experience mild symptoms or none at all during its earlier stages. If any symptoms show, they’re usually:

  • Infrequent shortness of breath
  • Mild but periodic cough
  • Needing to clear the throat often

As the disease progresses, the affected person will begin to display more symptoms. These include:

  • An ongoing, chesty cough that produces phlegm
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Increasing breathlessness, especially when active
  • Persistent wheezing

Immediate medical care should be administered if these symptoms occur:

  • Blue- or gray-tinted lips and/or fingernails, which is indicative of low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Difficulty speaking or catching breath
  • Feelings of confusion or faintness
  • Rapid heartbeat

Body systems harmed by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

In addition to the respiratory system, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can negatively impact various organs and organ systems. The cardiovascular system is the second organ system that is most at risk as having this disease significantly increases the risk of congestive heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Although a preventable condition, there are no single foods or nutrients out there that can completely forestall chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, maintaining a healthy weight is one way to minimize one’s chances of developing this lung disease. This can be accomplished through exercise and eating a diverse and nutrient-rich diet, which consists of:

  • Fresh fruits — Rich in essential minerals, vitamins, and fiber, these will help keep the body in terms of weight and overall wellness.
  • Complex carbohydrates — These encompass food items such as brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, and whole-grain bread.
  • Low-fat protein foods — Lean meat cuts, poultry, and oily fish like mackerel, tuna, and salmon all count as low-fat proteins.
  • Potassium-rich foods — Certain vegetables and fruits like bananas, avocado, leafy greens, and potatoes are excellent sources of potassium.

Moreover, there are some foods and beverages that should be consumed in minimal amounts or not all. These are:

  • Fried, deep-fried, or greasy foods
  • Heavily spiced foods
  • Caffeinated drinks

Treatments, management plans for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Because the damage done to the lungs by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is permanent, there is no known cure yet for this disease. Instead, treating it usually calls for relieving the symptoms, slowing down its progression, or preventing and treating the complications.

One option is to give bronchodilators, which are medicines that relax airway muscles to make breathing easier. Bronchodilators may be given with inhaled glucocorticosteroids to reduce airway inflammation if the symptoms are more severe.

Some people may undergo oxygen therapy or pulmonary rehabilitation. Oxygen therapy is meant for severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is intended to elevate blood oxygen levels. Pulmonary rehabilitation, on the other hand, is a program designed to help people struggling with chronic breathing problems.

In the event that none of these are sufficient, surgery is the last option, with lung transplantation being reserved for those with the most severe kind of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Making drastic lifestyle changes can help as well. The most important of these is smoking cessation. Those who are unable to quit smoking on their own can join support groups to make the process of forgoing smoking much simpler. Avoiding secondhand smoke or places that are awash with dust and fumes can be just as beneficial. Exercise is also recommended, although it’s best to discuss with a doctor the appropriate amount of exercise.

Where to learn more


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the term for lung conditions that make breathing difficult. One can acquire this disease by smoking or by breathing in lung irritants such as secondhand smoke, fumes, and dust. Apart from a mucus-filled cough and feelings of breathlessness, a person with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can experience chest tightness and wheezing as well.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a preventable disease that can be avoided by staying away from smoking and areas with high volumes of fumes, dust, or secondhand smoke. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can play a role too.

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