Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Smoking is not only connected to many different types of cancer, such as lungs, skin, pharynx or larynx but also associated with COPD, which stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD gets worse over time because it is a progressive disease. In the United States, there are more than 11 million people that have been diagnosed with this condition. The main cause of COPD is smoking, although some other factors such as air pollutants and dust can also affect the correct functioning of the lungs.
Normal functioning of the lungs
When somebody breathes, the air goes to the bronchial tubes and bronchioles, the air ends up in tiny sacs called alveoli, it is here where oxygen is taken from the air and into the bloodstream. The alveoli are also responsible for taking carbon dioxide out of the lungs. This process requires certain elasticity from your lungs, they need to inflate and deflate like balloons to take air in and out.
What is exactly Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
COPD refers to a group of symptoms and diseases that cause airflow to be blocked and to have breathing related problems. Some of the following may be causing COPD:
- There is no flexibility to get air in and out.
- The walls of the sacs are inflamed.
- The airways have more mucus than usual, which causes a blockage.
Emphysema and bronchitis cause these problems. Emphysema refers to the inflammation of the inner walls of the lungs, which eventually break into one large sac that is harder to handle. The blood takes less oxygen, and less carbon dioxide is expelled. Over the time, it becomes harder to breathe.
Bronchitis refers to the inflammation and mucus production of the airways, both elements make breathing a more difficult task.
Symptoms of COPD
There are several symptoms included in COPD, some of them are very serious and should make you go to the hospital immediately
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Clearing your throat in the morning
- Lack of energy
- A lot of mucus
- Wheezing sound when you breathe
- Trouble talking
- Increased heart rate
- Weight loss
- Blue lips (which mean your body needs oxygen)
Vaping and COPD
There is only one thing for sure in the debate about how safe e-cigarettes are, there is not enough research. Most sources of information say that e-cigars are 90% safer than traditional cigarettes since these do not contain tobacco to be burned. Smoke is not the problem in here because the best e-liquid produces vapor, which frees the lungs for the toxic residues of tar and other chemicals.
The issues that are not yet clear in relation to vaping and COPD are due to the high intake of nicotine the vapor has. Nicotine is a strongly addictive substance, and it happens to be connected to some of the progressive diseases of COPD.
Some studies were conducted with vapers, and they reported that most of the vapers ended up having sore throats and coughing just like smokers do. Although, long time effects of vaping are still a mystery for doctors and patients alike.
Risk factors for COPD
Smoking is the number one risk factor for developing COPD, there are, however, other causes that may affect the progression of the diseases as well:
- First-hand and second-hand smoke: exposure to tobacco smoke is the leading cause of COPD, you may not be the smoker, but if your significant other is smoking next to you, you are also at risks of getting the disease.
- People with asthma who smoke: these people have already some trouble breathing correctly, and smoking only gets things worse.
- Age: since COPD is a progressive disease it worsens over the ages, people over 40 are more likely to develop the disease because they must have been smoking for a longer period.
- Exposure to dust and chemicals: chemical fumes, dust, and vapor can also inflame the airways and cause problems to breathe, which are the main symptoms of COPD.
How to end it?
Smoking cessation is the most effective way to stop the disease because the body has the opportunity to heal and recover from most of the damage that has been done.