Copd Causes

Each year, nearly 10 million adults are diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, many people with COPD go undiagnosed and untreated. In order to understand your chances of getting COPD, it is important to understand the disease’s causes and risk factors.

COPD Causes

Many people who have COPD also have one of the following:

  • Asthmatic Bronchitis: Also known as bronchial asthmas, asthmatic bronchitis is sometimes linked with COPD, as it obstructs airways and makes it difficult to inhale.
  • Chronic Bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis is a condition with symptoms including an ongoing cough that causes inflammation and the narrowing of major and smaller bronchial tubes. Chronic bronchitis also leads to increased mucus production, which can block the already narrowed tubes.
  • Emphysema: Emphysema is a lung disease that causes inflammation within the fragile walls of the alveoli. The disease is known to break down some of the walls and elastic fibers that allow small airways to collapse when you breathe out, seriously impairing the ability of air to leave your lungs.

COPD can also be caused by a rare genetic order, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which can cause shortness of breath, wheezing and lung infections.

COPD and Smoking

Most experts in the medical community agree that the primary cause of COPD is long-term smoking. In fact, studies have shown that 90 percent of COPD cases in the United States are linked to cigarette smoking in some way. An estimated 15 percent of smokers will develop COPD at some point in their lifetime.

Cigarette smoke damages the lungs in various ways. Inflammation in the lungs is caused by cigarette smoke, and smoking also stimulates cells to release elastase, an enzyme that breaks down the elastic fibers in lung tissue.

Cigarette smoking is not the only smoking-related cause of COPD. Cigar smoke and pipe smoke also contribute to COPD.

COPD Risk Factors

There are many risk factors have been linked COPD, including:

  • Air Pollution: Repeated exposure to chemicals from industrial smoke and even simple dust can irritate the lungs and result in COPD cases.
  • Allergies: Anything that causes changes to the lungs and airways, including allergens, can be a contributor to COPD.
  • Asthma: People with asthma are at a higher risk of developing COPD.
  • Low Birth Weight: Low birth weight is linked to COPD. While researchers are still working to determine why the two are linked, some believe it is related to poor nutrition during fetal development, which results in small and dysfunctional lungs.
  • Nutrition: Certain foods, including salty foods and foods high in caffeine, can irritateyour respiratory system. Simple nutrition changes can reduce the chances of dysfunction in the lungs.
  • Passive Smoking: Non-smokers who are regularly exposed to smoke are at risk of developing COPD.Non-smokers and smokers should avoid secondhand smoke. This is true for asthmatics.
  • Periodontal Disease: It has been found that patients with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to develop COPD. It is believed that COPD in these individuals is caused when the bacteria that causes the periodontal disease travels into the lungs, causing inflammation and infection.
  • Work Environments: Working around certain chemicals and breathing in the fumes for many years significantly increases your risk of developing COPD. Construction workers, miners and metal workers are just some of the people who are frequently exposed to occupational fumes. Those who work at jobs with potentially COPD-causing fumes should always wear protection, including face masks.

Resources

A.D.A.M. Inc. (2005).COPD Risk Factors. Retrieved July 29, 2007, from the About.com Web site: http://lungdiseases.about.com/od/riskfactor1/a/riskfactorsCOPD.htm.

Mayo Clinic Staff (2007). COPD. Retrieved July 29, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://mayoclinic.com/health/copd/DS00916/DSECTION=3.

MedicineNet, Inc. (2006). Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Retrieved July 29, 2007, from the MedicineNet.com Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/chronic_obstructive_pulmonary_disease_copd/article.htm#2howdoes.

National Heart Blood and Lung Institute (2007). What Causes COPD? Retrieved July 29, 2007, from the National Heart Lung Blood Institute Web site: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Copd/Copd_Causes.html.