What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
COPD is a progressive lung disease characterized by irreversible airway stenosis. COPD is usually caused by long-term exposure to smoke, harmful dust or chemicals, mainly cigarette smoke. Exposure to biomass (wood, manure, etc.) smoke for a long time is also considered among the causes of COPD.
Does everyone who smokes get COPD?
Not everyone who smokes will get COPD. The amount and duration of cigarettes smoked are important. Smokers 20 pack years or more are at higher risk. The role of genetic factors in the emergence of COPD is very important. In addition, factors affecting lung development, such as low birth weight, are also thought to be associated with COPD. Less than half of long-term smokers develop COPD.
How is COPD diagnosed?
Definitive diagnosis is made with a pulmonary function test called spirometry. Patients who have a suitable clinical picture and whose airway stenosis finding does not improve in the spirometry test despite the administration of bronchodilator drugs can be considered as COPD. Most of the patients have a history of long-term exposure to tobacco (cigarette, etc.) smoke or biomass. A rare genetic disorder in our country, alpha-1 antitrypsin (an enzyme that protects the lungs) deficiency can also cause COPD without exposure to smoke or chemicals. Widespread emphysema areas are observed on thorax tomography of such patients. In addition, patients with bronchial asthma who have never smoked, have no dust or smoke exposure, but have not been (adequately) treated may not respond adequately to bronchodilator drugs in the early period. In such cases, the spirometry test is repeated after cortisone drugs are used for a while. This test is called late reversibility (recovery, reversal) test. In such a case, if the spirometry test improves, the patient can be diagnosed with bronchial asthma.
Is there a cure for COPD?
There is no cure for COPD that allows to become fully healthy, that is, to become completely normal. Because, structural changes have occurred in the lungs of patients with COPD at varying rates and differ according to patients. Most of these changes are irreversible.
On the other hand, there are (treatment) methods applied to protect lung functions in COPD patients, to slow down the decrease in lung functions, to prevent exacerbations, to reduce symptoms, to increase quality of life and to increase exercise capacity. The most important of these is to quit smoking (Generally, to stay away from harmful smoke, dust or chemicals). Pulmonary rehabilitation, the most important components of which are exercise and patient education, is one of the treatment methods that has been shown to be beneficial for patients with COPD. Bronchial expander inhalers are drugs that have been shown to be of significant benefit in patients with COPD. Patients with COPD benefit from seasonal flu and pneumonia vaccines. Patients with COPD should have a balanced diet. Sleep patterns should be good. Patients with low oxygen levels should definitely use oxygen therapy. Because each patient’s condition differs in COPD, each patient should receive an INDIVIDUAL treatment appropriate for that patient.