COPD / PULMONARY EMPHYSEMA: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment in 10 minutes!

In this Youtube video and in this health and wellness blog post, you will find;

- A reminder of the anatomy of the lungs and how they work

- What is the purpose of the lungs?

- The definition of COPD and pulmonary emphysema

- The pathophysiology of COPD

- What are the symptoms of COPD?

- The main causes of COPD

- Can COPD be treated?

- Treatments for COPD

- Complications of COPD

- What is pulmonary emphysema?

- Signs of pulmonary emphysema 

- Is there a cure for pulmonary emphysema?

- The consequences of pulmonary emphysema

Today, I am making this video following a request from a subscriber, if you ever want me to talk about a particular topic, feel free to put it in a comment :)

COPD and pulmonary emphysema are important topics to know about, because they affect one of our vital organs and can lead to very serious complications.

Before I talk about COPD and pulmonary emphysema, I'll give you a little background on one of our vital (life-sustaining) organs, the lungs.

The lungs are located in the rib cage at the top of our body. They are an extension of the trachea which is a tube through which the air we breathe in enters.

The trachea is divided into 2 parts called the left lobe and the right lobe, each of these parts divides into finer structures called bronchioles, these divide into other smaller structures called bronchioles which give onto other structures the pulmonary alveoli.

These are small sacs through which gas exchanges take place, between the lungs and the blood vessels. The lungs transfer the oxygen inspired by the outside air into the blood and they capture the CO2 present in the blood to reject it towards the outside thanks to the expiration.

The unoxygenated blood comes to the lungs through the pulmonary artery, receives oxygen in the pulmonary alveoli and travels to the heart through the pulmonary vein. The oxygen-filled blood can then leave the heart (aorta) and travel throughout the body.

The lungs are the oxygenation center of the body, so it is imperative to keep them healthy in order to live properly.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a disease that mainly affects people who smoke. It is an inflammation of the bronchi (bronchitis).

This inflammation leads to a narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which fill up with mucus (a viscous substance that lines the tissues and has a protective role; it helps to eliminate inhaled particles).

COPD results in breathlessness and causes irreversible damage to the lungs, i.e. they can no longer be repaired. It is therefore essential to stabilize the level of functioning of the lungs in order to prevent them from deteriorating further.

This disease evolves slowly, which makes it possible to treat the patient over the long term.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that COPD affects both men and women, but you should know that for the same amount of tobacco consumption, women tend to be affected by this disease more quickly than men.

Symptoms begin with the onset of a cough on waking, often accompanied by sputum (the release of substances). Gradually, the person becomes short of breath with effort, but also at rest as the disease progresses. Over time, the person can no longer breathe properly.

In COPD, the bronchioles tend to narrow, which prevents the lungs from exchanging gases properly.

In addition, the pulmonary alveoli become fragile and fuse together, and the blood vessels are destroyed, which is called pulmonary emphysema. Emphysema is the abnormal presence of gas within a tissue.

The alveoli are no longer able to empty themselves of the air they contain, and the blood becomes low in oxygen, which makes the lungs even more fragile.

Emphysema can also occur in people who do not suffer from COPD. It is due to the loss of elasticity of the pulmonary alveoli over time, which can become fragile and fuse together.

Emphysema can lead to respiratory infections, which can make the emphysema worse.

When emphysema appears, the person is more and more breathless even at rest, the lungs tend to swell, because air remains trapped in the lungs.

The person tends to have blue lips and fingernails because of the lack of oxygen.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD, it causes an increase in the amount of mucus in the bronchi, which leads to an increase in bronchial infections. Infections will further increase the production of mucus, which leads to chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes.

It can also be caused by high exposure to toxic chemicals or diseases such as tuberculosis, ...

To avoid COPD and limit the damage, it is imperative to stop smoking and not to expose yourself to other people's smoke. Stopping smoking prevents the evolution of the disease and maintains the lungs at a stabilized activity level.

It is also recommended to breathe unpolluted air, to do adapted physical exercise, to learn to breathe with the belly, to do breathing exercises (blowing out a candle, ...).

The diagnosis of COPD is made by the general practitioner who observes the symptoms, i.e. coughing with secretions at least 3 months a year and for at least two consecutive years.

Additional examinations may be requested by the specialist (pulmonologist):

- The functional respiratory exploration (EFR), it onsists in measuring the volume of gases exchanged during breathing and the level of obstruction of the bronchi.

- Measurement of gases in the blood

- The walking test (measurement of the distance the patient can walk in 6 minutes)

- Chest x-ray to see the condition of the lungs.

Treatment of COPD consists of keeping the level of deterioration stable to preserve the functionality of the lungs and prevent them from deteriorating further.

Medications are bronchodilators that dilate the bronchial tubes by limiting the abnormal contraction of the bronchial muscles, thus increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the pulmonary alveoli.

Sometimes, corticosteroids may also be prescribed to the patient when the disease becomes severe to limit the inflammation. However, care must be taken because they can increase the risk of infection. It is therefore imperative to inform the doctor as soon as the symptoms worsen (shortness of breath, cough, etc.).

Physiotherapy is also often recommended to patients, it allows to facilitate the exit of secretions and to teach the patient to breathe better by different breathing techniques.

Physical activity is also recommended whenever possible.

When the patient is in chronic respiratory insufficiency, oxygen therapy is implemented, it allows the patient to breathe oxygen-rich air in order to make up for the lack.

Finally, antibiotics can be prescribed for a limited period of time (10 days) in case of exacerbation of the disease to reduce the risk of lung infection.

I would like to emphasize that it is absolutely necessary to ask your doctor's advice if you want to take cough suppressants for COPD.

Indeed, opiate-based cough suppressants such as codeine are contraindicated in people with COPD, and expectorants should only be taken under medical advice.

Coughing is the reflex that clears the bronchial tubes and allows secretions to be released, so it should not be interfered with.

Dr Noura Marrai (Doctor of Pharmacy, YouTuber Health, creator of the health well-being Pharmaquiz application),

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