Factual Essay About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) presents significant challenges to a person's ability to carry out functional tasks and participate in social networks. Such factors are widely recognized as contributing to a person's sense of self identity, health and well-being. (Kerr, A, and C Ballinger 2010) Although there is no cure, the symptoms of COPD can be managed and damage to your lungs can be slowed down. If you smoke, quitting is the most important thing you can do to help your lungs.


In chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the airways and tissues of the lungs gradually become damaged over time, causing increasing shortness of breath. Eventually some people with this condition become so short of breath that they are seriously disabled and unable to carry our even the simple daily activities. COPD is twice as common in men as women and is almost always caused by smoking. People with COPD usually have three separate lung conditions, chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma and emphysema, however either one may be dominant (Harris, Nagy and Vardaxis, 2010) • Symptoms: After smoking 20 or more cigarettes a day for more than twenty years, patients with COPD can develop a chronic cough, shortness of breath, and frequent respiratory tract infections. • When COPD is in advanced stages patients may develop cyanosis due to a lack of oxygen in blood and morning headaches due to an inability to remove carbon dioxide from the blood. Some patients suffer weight loss due to the use of additional energy that is required to breathe. In advanced COPD, small blood vessels in the lungs are destroyed, and as a result, the heart must pump with increased force and pressure to get blood to flow through the lungs. If the heart cannot cope with the additional work, failure of the right heart results and leads to swelling of the feet and ankles. Patients may cough up blood which is due to damage to the inner lining of the airways and the airways' blood vessels; however, occasionally, hemoptysis may signal the development of lung cancer. (Harris, Nagy and Vardaxis, 2010) HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

COPD usually is first diagnosed through medical history which discloses many of the symptoms of COPD and a physical examination which discloses signs of COPD. Other tests include chest X-ray, computerized tomography (CAT or CT scan) of the chest, tests of lung function (pulmonary function tests) and the measurement of carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood. (Kerr and Ballinger, 2010) COPD is first diagnosed following the development of respiratory illness necessitating hospitalization. COPD is suspected in all chronic smokers because often they will only develop symptoms after significant lung damage occurs. (Kerr and Ballinger, 2010) The most commonly used test is spirometry, a test which detects the extent of airway obstruction. The process involves the patient taking a full breath and then exhaling fast and forcefully into a tube connected to a machine that measures the volume of air forced out of the lungs. Samples of blood samples obtained from an artery can also be used to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide levels but this requires inserting a needle into an artery. A less invasive method to measure oxygen levels in the blood is called pulse oximetry. Pulse oximetry works on the principle that the amount of redness of haemoglobin (the protein in blood that carries oxygen) is in proportionate to the amount of oxygen. The more oxygen there is in blood, the redder the appearance of the blood. A probe (oximeter) is placed around a fingertip and on one side of the finger the probe shines a light. Some of the light is transmitted through the fingertip, and this light is measured on the opposite side of the finger by the probe. The varying degree of redness of the blood within the fingertip (that is, the amount of...
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