COPD which causes shortness of breath, cough, mucus production and wheezing. Its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.


English セルフケア・対処 COPD(慢性閉塞性肺疾患)

What is COPD which causes shortness of breath, cough and mucus production?

COPD(Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) causes pulmonary diseases, and mainly occur to people smoking cigarettes.
The number of patients having COPD is estimated to be 5 million persons in Japan.
In the cigarette smoke, there are nicotine, tars, PM 2.5 particles and various irritating, poisonous gases and substances. Smokers with long smoking histories may develop reduced lung function as well as dirtying their airway, causing cough and mucus production. When lungs inflammation is getting worse, pulmonary alveolar membrane (thin walls) bringing in oxygen is damaged, and the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange can't be done anymore. Leading to the result of not be able to breath correctly, the insufficient intake of oxygen leads to a shortness of breath. Once the pulmonary alveolar membrane is damaged, its recovery is impossible.

Moreover, a long-term cigarette smoking leads to a chronic bronchitis and breathing difficulty. Pulmonary hypertension could also occur causing heart suffering.

What are the signs of COPD?
Its symptoms and check list.

If you are a smoker, above 40 and have three of these above points, you have probably COPD.
One of typical symptoms of early stage of COPD is to have shortness of breath while going up long stairs. However, as the shortness of breath appears gradually, you don't realize it. You might have COPD if you walk with people of same age, and you feel shortness of breath by trying to catch up with them.
If you have some mucus production during winter morning since your young age, you might be more sensitive to have COPD. As cold narrows your airway, cough and mucus production could be more important. Do not hesitate to go to the doctor and check if you have COPD.

We recommend to smoking person to check your breath by taking stairs rather than the elevator or escalator.

Examination of COPD
Periodical lung function test is effective for an early detection

For the diagnosis of COPD, we usually use a spirometry which allows to check lung function.
Breathing out the air in a spirometry, allows to measure the Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV-1). FEV-1 is the amount of air (in percentage) you breathe out in the first second after you have taken a deep breath.

People with COPD has a low FEV-1, as they have difficulty to blow the air out as hard and fast as they can. If the FEV-1 is less than 70%, there is a big probability that the person has COPD.
Diagnostic test using spirometry can be done at the pulmonology department of a hospital or at a specialist.
As COPD is a disease which get worse gradually and for an early detection, we recommend people smoking cigarettes to get checked every 5 years.

The basic treatment for COPD is to "stop smoking".

The basic treatment for COPD is to stop all smoking. Quitting smoking will improve symptoms of coughing, sputum production and shortness of breath. It will also hold back the deterioration of lung function.

Compared to non-smokers after their twenties which their lung function decreases slowly, for smokers continuing smoking, their lung function decreases rapidly.
For this reason, people with COPD can easily have a shortness of breath while walking on a flat ground or even in a rest state. When you stop smoking, your lung function will begin to decrease slowly like a non-smoker.

If you have difficulties to stop smoking, we recommend you, to consult a tobacco cessation clinic.

Medication treatment for COPD

Besides smoking cessation, there are other treatments for COPD.

To avoid shortness of breathing, you can learn how to breath correctly or how to cope with everyday activities.

Bronchodilators and inhaled steroids help shortness of breath and make breathing easier. This is important to keep breathing capacity.

For people with COPD, having Influenza or Pneumonia could put their lung function in danger. It's therefore important to have a vaccination against.

If you have a severe COPD (if COPD is in an advanced stage), and you cannot intake enough oxygen, you may need supplemental oxygen. There are several devices like "Home oxygen therapy" to deliver oxygen to your lungs, including lightweight, portable units that you can take with you to run errands, get around town or even travel.