Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of lung disease characterized by poor airflow. It is a progressive disease that can worsen with time and gradually make routine activities, such as walking or cooking, more difficult. COPD can be broadly categorized into two different types: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The term “chronic bronchitis” is used to describe a productive cough that has been present for a minimal duration of 3 months every year for two years.
The most common cause of COPD is tobacco smoking, coupled with factors such as genetics and air pollution. Common sources of air pollution in the developing world are poor venting and cooking fires, where prolonged exposure can result in narrowing of the airways and lung tissue breakdown. Unlike asthma, however, airflow in COPD does not improve much despite the use of a bronchodilator. Prevention of COPD includes reducing exposure to tobacco smoke and air pollution. Although there is no cure, current therapies help slow the progression and control the symptoms of the disease.
Treatment and management of COPD involve respiratory rehabilitation, quitting smoking, and inhalation with steroids and bronchodilators. Some patients may also benefit from long-term oxygen therapy. Acute episodes of COPD may require hospitalization to stabilize the patient. By 2015, COPD affected approximately 174.5 million of the global population, resulting in 3.2 million deaths. More than 90 percent of deaths occur in the developing world. COPD is mostly seen among those over the age of 40.
Symptom #1: Sputum Production
Sputum, also known as mucus or phlegm, refers to the coughed-up material produced in the lower airways. Sputum samples are often used for the microbiological investigations of possible respiratory infections.
In COPD, the cough can be productive with the amount of sputum changing over hours to days. Increased or excessive sputum production is a common symptom among COPD patients, contributing to the severity of the cough as the body attempts to remove the extra mucus.