COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a pulmonary chronic disease mainly caused by cigarette smoke and air pollution.
This reduction leads to a loss of the normal daily activities. In fact, for patients at early stage it is difficult to raise the stairs, while in severe and very severe COPD patients it is impossible to perform the most common activities, such as having a shower.
A worsening of COPD symptoms is called "exacerbation" and it worsens the pathology; it can have a viral or bacterial origin. In many epidemiological studies in high polluted districts, COPD and its complications are forecasted as first cause of death in the upcoming years. Usually this disease is linked with sigarette smoking or indoor/outdoor pollution. Anyway, a genetic factor is foundamental, as some heavy smokers do not develop the disease.
COPD is a respiratory pathology characterized by a persistent airflow limitation.
It is strongly recommended to perform a mass screening with spirometry to start treatment as soon as possible and to prevent the aggravation.
COPD diagnosis is done by instrumental exams, mainly spirometry (a test that measures the residual respiratory capacity just breathing in a "tube"). Symptoms often are not recognised by the patients and so they are referred to the doctor too late. The habit of smoking (or professional/natural exposure to pollution), together with presence of cough, sputum and dispnea, allows to diagnose COPD more rapidly.
Related to the severity of pathology it is possible to distinguish 4 cases depending on the value of FEV1 (Forced espiratory volume in one second):
- Mild COPD (or grade 1): FEV1 >80% of the theoric value
- Moderate COPD (or grade II): FEV1 between 50% and 80%
- Severe COPD (or grade III): FEV1 between 30% and 50%
- Very severe COPD (or grade IV): FEV1 <30%