Pulmonary MedicineCOPD

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a condition in which the airways in the lungs become broken down and narrowed, often due to smoking cigarettes. Sometimes the air sacs are also damaged. As the lungs become more damaged over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to breathe through the narrowed airways (also known as bronchial tubes). When the damage is severe, it may also become difficult to get enough oxygen into the blood and to get rid of excess carbon dioxide. These changes all lead to shortness of breath and other symptoms. Unfortunately, the symptoms of COPD cannot be completely eliminated with treatment and the condition may worsen over time. It is usually treated with inhalers.

The term COPD includes both chronic bronchitis and emphysema:

  • Chronic bronchitis - an irritation in the airways that lead to the lungs, often due to smoking. It causes a cough that brings up mucus (phlegm) every day for 3 months or longer.
  • Emphysema - in a healthy person, the tiny air sacs in the lungs are like balloons. As you breathe in and out, they get bigger and smaller to move air through your lungs. With emphysema, these air sacs are damaged and lose their stretch. Less air gets in and out of the lungs, which makes you feel short of breath.

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Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. The chronic inflammation leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning. Treatment is usually successful in reversing inflammation and airway narrowing by using inhalers. In a minority of people with asthma, the chronic inflammation permanently restricts airflow. When this airway narrowing cannot be completely reversed with treatment, the person is said to have COPD.

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Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited disease caused by an abnormal gene that some children are born with. It causes thick mucus and other fluids to build up and clog different parts of the body, including the lungs, pancreas, liver, and intestine. The thick mucus in the lungs causes people with cystic fibrosis to get frequent lung infections. Over time, these infections damage the lungs. The thick fluids in the pancreas and liver keep the intestine from absorbing certain nutrients from food. This affects a child’s growth and causes abnormal bowel movements. Cystic fibrosis is a life-long condition. As of now, doctors can’t cure the disease, but they can use different treatments to help with symptoms.

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Pulmonary Fibrosis

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. It damages the air sacs that send oxygen to the blood. This damage causes scars in the lungs. These changes make people with IPF cough and get short of breath. People who get IPF are usually older than 40. It is a very serious illness that cannot be cured and gets worse over time.

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Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary Hypertension is a condition that causes high blood pressure in the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs. When this happens, the heart has to work harder. This causes people to have trouble breathing and feel very tired. Other symptoms include swelling of the legs and feet, chest pain and fainting. This condition can be treated with prescription medications.

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Vocal Cord Dysfunction

Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) occurs when the vocal cords (voice box) do not open correctly. VCD is sometimes confused with asthma because some of the symptoms are similar. With VCD, muscles around the vocal cords tighten, which makes breathing difficult. Unlike asthma, VCD is not an allergic response and it is not treated with inhalers.

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Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency

Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency is a condition in which the body does not make enough of a protein (alpha 1 antitrypsin) that protects the lungs and liver from damage. The condition can lead to emphysema and liver disease. This condition can be treated with intravenous therapy.

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