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Lung Disease (COPD) in The Elderly

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COPD, short for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive lung condition that causes an individual to have difficulty breathing. This disease will worsen over time, hence being defined as progressive. Although males are more likely to have this disease, death rates for both genders are relatively close.

Lung Disease (COPD) in The Elderly

Lung Disease (COPD) in The Elderly

The Function of the Human Lung

To learn how COPD affects the lung, we must first develop understanding of how the lungs function in our body. When we inhale, the air travels down our windpipe into tubes in our lungs (called bronchial). These tubes branch off into thousands of thinner tubes called bronchioles, which end in bundles of small round air sacs called alveoli. Capillaries, which are small blood vessels, are positioned in the walls of these alveoli. When air reaches these sacs, the oxygen is transferred through the walls into these blood vessels, while carbon is transferred from the capillaries to the air sacs. This process, where oxygen and carbon dioxide are transferred is called, you guessed it, gas exchange.

Now how does COPD affect this process? You may already know that the airways in the lung are elastic-like, because they inflate when air goes in (inhaling), and deflate when air goes out (exhaling). With COPD, this elasticity is lost or reduced, and many of the capillary walls are damaged or inflamed. Because of the damaged the walls are subject to, the body produces excess mucus, which can cause clogging in these areas.

Types of COPD

COPD can come in many forms, but the main two are chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. A combination of the two is also possible. Both types cause damage to the lung’s airways and conflict with oxygen absorption, as well as carbon dioxide release. Severe COPD causes difficulty in performing everyday tasks such as walking, or preparing food.

Chronic Bronchitis
-Chronic inflammation of the linings in the airways, which causes this lining to thicken with mucus, and obstruct breathing. Individuals with this condition will have long term mucus-filled coughs

Emphysema
-Damaging and destruction of lung tissue, with a focus on the alveoli (air sacs). These sacs will then become floppy. Because the number of sacs are reduced, the result will be more larger air sacs, which effectively reduces gas exchange.

Treatment

Presently, no cure has been found for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, nor has treatment been found to reverse the damage it causes to the lungs. COPD is most commonly diagnosed in middle aged or senior individuals. This condition is not contagious, so it can’t transfer from one person to another. Doctors say that staying active, and eating more healthy will slow the progression of this disease. For senior individuals, COPD can inhibit the extent to which they can take care of themselves, so their loved ones should make sure to pay more attention to their lifestyle, and help out however they can.

 

Sources:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd


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