How Does COPD Affect the Body?

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for two chronic lung diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, with many patients suffering from both conditions. Each condition affects the lungs slightly differently, although they share many of the same symptoms according to the Lung Institute.

MORE: 10 questions to ask your doctor or nurse about COPD

Chronic bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis is a disease where the airways in the lungs become inflamed and obstructed. The main symptoms of the condition are:

  • Airway walls becoming thick and swollen
  • Narrowing of airways
  • Long-term persistent cough which produces lots of mucus
  • Lung infections
  • Scarring of the lungs
  • Reduction of lung function

Emphysema attacks the air sacs at the end of the airways called alveoli. The main symptoms of the disease are:

  • Alveoli becoming damaged and stiffened
  • Air trapped in the alveoli leads to the alveoli over-stretching and breaking
  • Breathing difficulties

As COPD progresses, it will begin to take more of a toll on the body leading to other symptoms such as:

  • Inability to work
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in breathing even when resting
  • Sleeping problems
  • Difficulty in performing simple daily tasks such as dressing, preparing meals and showering
  • Susceptibility to infections such as pneumonia, flu and colds
  • Other comorbidities such as congestive heart failure

MORE: Nine important dos and don’ts for people with COPD.

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