Smoking is the primary and most prominent cause of COPD. Put simply, COPD is a disease of smokers. Exposure to tobacco smoke accounts for approximately 90% of COPD risk. Smoking causes inflammation inside the lungs, which destroys lung tissue and eventually leads to COPD. The earlier you start smoking, the more you smoke, and whether or not you still smoke are the major predictors of whether or not you will develop COPD and how much the disease will effect you and potentially kill you once it is present.
Additional COPD Causes
The remaining 10% of COPD risk is determined by a number of other factors including environmental air pollution, certain genetic disorders and inheritable diseases, IV drug use, and certain immunodeficiency syndromes.
The symptoms of COPD usually start gradually and slowly progress over many years. Patients frequently ignore these symptoms until the disease has progressed to a later and much more serious stage. At this late stage, treatment is less effective and the risk of disability and death is much greater. It is important for an individual to recognize the signs and symptoms of COPD so that he can seek treatment early in the course of the disease before it is too late to prevent progression and provide effective treatment.
The most common sign/symptoms of COPD include the following. If you have any of the following symptoms consult a physician. A physician can determine the proper course of treatment for COPD (See COPD Treatments).
- Productive Cough
- Chest Pain
- Shortness of Breath
- Weight Loss
COPD also has a waxing and waning course marked with exacerbations that become more significant as the disease progresses to later stages. Exacerbations are marked by dramatically increased symptoms that may require hospitalization and treatment with various medical therapies to prevent significant illness and death.
In addition to the common findings present in the disease, patients with COPD often have a myriad of systemic problems that may include decreased lean body mass, osteoporosis, anemia, and depression among others.