Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases include in particular
If one of these two lung diseases is present, either individually or in combination, doctors refer to it as COPD.
It is estimated that between 8% and 12% of adults in Europe and North America suffer from COPD. It is therefore a widespread disease.
People of advanced age are particularly often affected. Men are affected about two to three times more often than women.
COPD is also one of the most common killer diseases. Worldwide, it is the fourth most common cause of death – and the trend is still rising.
Typical symptoms of COPD include
- Shortness of breath: At first, it only occurs during physical exertion, but in the advanced stages it also occurs in a resting condition,
- Chronic cough: Gets worse and more persistent over time. It is particularly troublesome in the morning after getting up.
- Increased sputum: Over time, increasingly tough and difficult to cough up.
Doctors also refer to these complaints as AHA symptoms in German (Atemnot, Husten Auswurf = shortness of breath, cough, sputum). In addition to these AHA symptoms, further complaints occur as the disease progresses, such as
- Weight loss and
- a reduced resilience.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, doctors distinguish between the following degrees of severity of COPD. They are primarily based on the degree of lung function:
- Level 0: Risk group with simple chronic bronchitis.
- Stage 1: Mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, possibly with cough, sputum and dyspnoea on vigorous exercise.
- Stage 2: Moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, possibly with cough, sputum and shortness of breath.
- Stage 3: severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, possibly with cough, sputum and shortness of breath.
- Stage 4: very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with chronic insufficient oxygen supply.
The main cause for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is smoking. About 80% to 90% of COPD patients are smokers or former smokers. Overall, about 15% to 20% of long-time smokers develop COPD in the course of their lives.
But there are other risk factors for COPD besides smoking. These include, for example,
- Frequent respiratory infections in childhood,
- Living on busy roads with high particulate matter pollution or
- Air pollution in the workplace.
In rare cases, COPD can also be caused by congenital hereditary diseases. These include, for example, the absence of defence substances (antibody deficiency syndrome) or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
Smoking is one of the most common causes of COPD © bilderzwerg | AdobeStock
For the diagnosis, the doctor first conducts a patient interview (anamnesis). He asks about the patient's medical history and the exact nature and duration of his complaints.
This is followed by various examinations, including
Under certain circumstances, the doctor may order further examinations, for example
The aim of COPD treatment is to alleviate the symptoms caused by the disease and to maintain or improve the patient's quality of life.
Various therapeutic measures are available for this, including
- drug treatment with special bronchodilators for inhalation, and
- various non-drug treatment approaches such as physical training and physical therapies.
The treatment of COPD is carried out by lung specialists from the following medical fields pneumology and bronchology.