Most of the time, we do not even realize we are breathing. However, for those who suffer from emphysema and chronic bronchitis, breathing is a constant concern. Because both conditions commonly occur together, they are referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The more you know about COPD, the earlier you can spot symptoms and get treatment.
Otherwise known as “smoker’s cough,” chronic bronchitis is marked by a constant cough, increased mucus, frequent throat clearing and shortness of breath. Chronic bronchitis occurs when bronchial tubes become infected and inflamed, decreasing the amount of airflow in and out of the lungs. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. In fact, smoking causes 80 to 90 percent of all COPD cases.
Treatments include antibiotics and medicines that relax and open up air passages (called bronchodilators). Patients who smoke are instructed to quit.
Sometimes a chemical imbalance in the lungs causes the walls of the air sacs to lose their elasticity and break. Since the air sacs are responsible for trading the oxygen in the air for the blood’s carbon dioxide, damage to the sacs makes the lungs work harder to get more air, causing shortness of breath. The loss of elasticity also makes exhaling difficult. Smoking is a major cause of emphysema. Some people have chronic bronchitis before developing emphysema.
Quitting smoking can stop the progression of the disease, but it cannot cure emphysema. Physicians prescribe broncho-dilator drugs and antibiotics to treat the condition. An exercise program can also help strengthen respiratory muscles and train the heart to work more efficiently.
If you suffer from COPD or lung disease, our experts will tailor a program to suit your needs. To learn more, call Baptist Beaumont Hospital at (409) 212-5870.