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Smoking: The First Cause Of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that causes a narrowing of the airways (the tubes in your lungs that air flows trough). The result of this disease is a decrease in the flow of air, both in and out of the lungs. COPD has a slow, progressive course that usually becomes symptomatic during the middle adult years  and is irreversible. COPD is a umbrella term for a broad classification of lung disorders including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Smoking

Smoking

Smoking: The First Cause Of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The most significant risk factor for developing COPD is cigarette smoking. The American Lung Association  estimates that 70% to 90% of those who were diagnosed are chronic smokers or  smoked a lot.  The risk of developing COPD increases in relation to the number of cigarettes smoked, nicotine concentration and years of smoking.

Actions of smoking on the lungs are mulitple:

  • The quality of the surfactant is impared
  • Stimulation of vagal irritant receptors, with brochospasm
  • Hyperplasia and hypertrophy of mucus gland with mucus hypersecretion
  • Motility inhibition of bronchial cilia and macrophages, which cause secretion stasis and increase the risk of pulmonary infections.
Smoker's Lungs

Smoker’s Lungs

Although there is a definite genetic factor to the disease, COPD is mainly caused by cigarette smoking. There are some additional risk factors that contribute to its  development like: secondhand smoke, occupational exposure and air pollution. It is important to note that while we cannot change our family history, we do have some control over the environment.