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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to the combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, resulting in obstruction of airways and poor oxygen transport in the lungs, respectively.
Although chronic bronchitis and emphysema are distinct conditions, smokers and former smokers often have aspects of both. In chronic bronchitis, the linings of the bronchial tubes are inflamed and thickened, leading to a chronic, mucus-producing cough and shortness of breath. In emphysema, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are damaged, also leading to shortness of breath. COPD is generally irreversible and may even be fatal.
Symptoms of COPD develop gradually and may initially include shortness of breath during exertion, wheezing especially when exhaling, and frequent coughing that produces variable amounts of mucus. In more advanced stages, people may experience rapid changes in the ability to breathe, shortness of breath at rest, fatigue, depression, memory problems, confusion, and frequent waking during sleep.
Smoking is the underlying cause of the majority of cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Anyone who smokes should stop, and, although quitting smoking will not reverse the symptoms of COPD, it may help preserve the remaining lung function. Exposure to other respiratory irritants, such as air pollution, dust, toxic gases, and fumes, may aggravate COPD and should be avoided when possible.
Negative ions may counteract the allergenic effects of positively charged ions on respiratory tissues and potentially ease symptoms of allergic bronchitis, according to preliminary research.1, 2
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2017.