Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) (cont.)
Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC, FCCP
Ryland P Byrd Jr, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Zab Mosenifar, MD
IN THIS ARTICLE
Cigarette smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke
Cigarette smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke is the primary cause of COPD. While COPD occurs in 15% of cigarette smokers, tobacco use accounts for as much as 90% of the risk for the development of this disease.
People with COPD experience a more rapid decline in what is called forced expiratory volume, or FEV. FEV is the maximum volume of air that can be exhaled within a specified time period, starting from maximal inhalation. A subscript indicates the time period in seconds. For example, FEV1 is the maximum volume of air that can be exhaled within 1 second. A decline in FEV causes a person to become short of breath and to have difficulty breathing.
It is not clear if air pollution causes COPD. However, if it does, the effect is small when compared to cigarette smoking.
The use of solid fuels for cooking and heating may cause high levels of indoor air pollution, which may then lead to the development of COPD.
Some patients who develop COPD have airway hyperresponsiveness, a condition in which their airways overreact to airborne irritants, such as secondhand smoke and air pollution.
The role of airway hyperresponsiveness as a risk factor for COPD in people who smoke is unclear. However, according to one hypothesis, patients who have airway hyperreactivity and who smoke are at an increased risk of COPD and an accelerated rate of decreased lung function.
Alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency
AAT deficiency is an inherited condition, and it is the only known genetic risk factor for COPD. It accounts for less than 1% of all cases of COPD in the United States. Severe AAT deficiency leads to emphysema at an early age; in nonsmokers, the average age of onset of emphysema is 53 years, and in smokers, it is 40 years.
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - Symptoms
The eMedicineHealth physician editors ask:
The symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
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