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How Does Smoking Cause COPD

How Does Smoking Cause COPD

Studies over the years have found out that smoking is the leading cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In this article, we will try to know how smoking leads to COPD.
Rahul Pandita
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of mortality in adults and as estimated 100,000 people die each year because of this condition. COPD is a progressive disease, that is, with time the disease progresses, and if left untreated, can cause serious conditions including death.
COPD - A Combination of Bronchitis and Emphysema
COPD is a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is characterized by inflammation and swelling of lungs. The airways which connect the windpipe and lungs are clogged with thick mucus, known as phlegm. This condition is also marked with the damage of air sacs present at the tip of airways. This causes difficulty in the passage of air through lungs, causing difficulty in breathing.
Bronchitis
Bronchitis is the first condition which leads to COPD, which is followed by emphysema. Bronchitis is caused due to prolonged exposure to pollutants, most commonly cigarette smoke. Continuous inhalation of pollutants causes inflammation of bronchi, and the human body retaliates by producing mucous or phlegm to block the entry of pollutants. This mucus gets deposited on the linings of airways, making it difficult for the lungs to get a continuous supply of oxygen. This leads to symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing. Some other symptoms of bronchitis are mild chest pain and intermittent cough.
Emphysema
Emphysema is a medical condition in which the elastic fibers which are used to move air in and out of lungs are damaged due to the chemicals in smoke. The blood vessels present on the lungs are responsible for absorbing the oxygen and then transferring it to the bloodstream through which it is transferred to the rest of the body. Pollutants in smoke damage the blood vessels and also alter the elastic fibers, thus making it difficult for the person to breathe normally. Some other symptoms of emphysema are frequent exertion, wheezing, tiredness, nausea, and headaches.
Smoking Cessation and COPD
According to doctors, smoking is one of the major factors that contributes in the development of COPD, so much that non-smokers have little or no risk of developing this disease. Cigarettes contain tobacco, a substance which is constituted by poisonous chemicals which get deposited on the airways and cause difficulty in breathing. The smoke that is inhaled by us causes the airways to produce mucus in higher quantities, putting a person at risk of bronchial infection.
Substances like tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, which are present in tobacco aggravate bronchitis, and over a period of time, cause it to develop into COPD. The good news is that COPD does not worsen after one quits smoking. So, it is very important that smokers make an effort to quit smoking as soon as they can. COPD prognosis has shown that smoking cessation helps in improving COPD and increases the chances of survival.
Smoking cessation also reduces the damage caused to lungs, and reduces the difficulty in breathing. It might be surprising for many but smoking is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases. According to the American Health Association, smokers are at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Women smokers who are on contraception are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Researchers say that almost all smokers know the implications smoking has on their health, but it is difficult for them to give it up as they are addicted to it. Awareness about the ill-effects of smoking can educate a smoker, but it takes a lot of effort to get rid of this addiction. There are several programs that can help one to quit smoking, including medication and therapies. It is very difficult to wake up one morning and decide that you are not going to smoke, instead you should take the help of a counselor who can help you in getting over this addiction gradually.
As mentioned before, smoking is the leading cause for COPD and the first step in the treatment of COPD is smoking cessation. Doctors who treat COPD focus their attention on helping the patient to quit smoking, because treatment would be ineffective if the patient continues to smoke. Antimicrobials like Ampicillin and Amoxicillin are usually prescribed to patients so that infection in blood or sputum is cured. Patients with COPD complain of difficulty in breathing, and this condition can be debilitating, so doctors may prescribe Bronchodilators to ease the breathing process. There are some other treatment options and your doctor would be in a better position to decide which drugs would be suitable for you.
Smoking has been the cause of many serious diseases and the best step forward is to take an initiative to quit smoking. Remember you were a non-smoker when you were born, and there is no reason why you cannot become one again.