Aging & Health A to Z
Causes & Symptoms
Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop COPD. About one in five smokers eventually gets COPD, even if they have quit smoking. But quitting before permanent damage is done to your lungs can lower your risk of getting COPD a lot.
The irritating and toxic particles and gases in the cigarette smoke cause inflammation in the lungs, which eventually causes the tissues to break down. Besides tobacco smoking, other risk factors include:
- Exposure to secondhand smoke, including smoke from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or marijuana
- Exposure to air pollution, chemicals or industrial dust
- Frequent use of cooking gas or fires without proper ventilation
- Frequent lung infections.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
Symptoms and warning signs of COPD include:
- Ongoing, long-term cough with mucus
- Shortness of breath that gets worse, even with mild activity, or fast breathing
- Chest tightness
- Frequent respiratory infections
- General tiredness
- Pursing your lips when you breathe
- A “barrel” chest (from over-expanded lungs)
- Longer time taken to breathe out (exhale) than to breathe in (inhale).
By the time you notice these symptoms, you may already have suffered some irreversible lung damage, so it is important to act fast to avoid further damage.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012