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Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease


Overview :

COPD is one of the fastest-growing health problems. Nearly 16 million people in the United States, 14 million with chronic bronchitis and two million with emphysema, suffer from COPD. COPD is responsible for more than 96,000 deaths annually, making it the fourth leading cause of death. Although COPD is more common in men than women, the increase in incidence of smoking among women since World War II has produced an increase in deaths from COPD in women. COPD has a large economic impact on the healthcare system and a destructive impact on the lives of patients and their families. Quality of life for a person with COPD decreases as the disease progresses.

Chronic bronchitis

In chronic bronchitis, chronic inflammation caused by cigarette smoking results in a narrowing of the openings in the bronchi, the large air tubes of the respiratory system, and interferes with the flow of air. Inflammation also causes the glands that line the bronchi to produce excessive amounts of mucus, further narrowing the airways and blocking airflow. The result is often a chronic cough that produces sputum (mainly mucus) and shortness of breath. Cigarette smoke also damages the cilia, small hair-like projections that move bacteria and foreign particles out of the lungs, increasing the risk of infections.

Emphysema

Emphysema is a disease in which cigarette smoke causes an overproduction of the enzyme elastase, one of the immune system's infection-fighting biochemicals. This results in irreversible destruction of a protein in the lung called elastin which is important for maintaining the structure of the walls of the alveoli, the terminal small air sacs of the respiratory system. As the walls of the alveoli rupture, the number of alveoli is reduced and many of those remaining are enlarged, making the lungs of the patient with emphysema less elastic and overinflated. Due to the higher pressure inside the chest that must be developed to force air out of the less-elastic lungs, the bronchioles, small air tubes of the respiratory system, tend to collapse during exhalation. Stale air gets trapped in the air sacs and fresh air cannot be brought in.




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