This condition, which is characterized by an ongoing cough, causesinflammation and narrowing of the major and smaller bronchial tubes. Chronic bronchitisalso causes increased mucus production, which can block the narrowed tubes.
Asthmatic bronchitis also is sometimes classified as COPD, because it obstructsairways and makes it difficult to inhale. Asthmatic bronchitis — also known as bronchial asthma — is a term used to describe chronic bronchitis accompanied bycontractions of the muscle fibers in the lining of the airways (bronchospasm).
Cigarette smoke and other irritants
In the vast majority of cases, the damage in the lungs that leads to COPD is caused bylong-term cigarette smoking. But other irritants can cause COPD, including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution and certain occupational fumes.In rare cases, COPD results from low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin.This is a rare genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.
Risk factors for COPD include:
Exposure to tobacco smoke.
The most significant risk factor for COPD islong-term cigarette smoking. The more years you smoke and the more packsyou smoke, the greater your risk. Pipe smokers, cigar smokers and peopleexposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke also are at risk.
Occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals.
Long-term exposure tochemical fumes, vapors and dusts can irritate and inflame your lungs.
COPD develops slowly over years, so most people are at least 40 yearsold when symptoms begin.
A rare genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency isthe source of a few cases of COPD. Researchers suspect that some geneticfactors may also make certain smokers more susceptible to the disease.
When to seek medical advice
If you're a smoker with signs and symptoms of COPD — such as cough, mucus production or shortness of breath — talk to your doctor. If you've been told that youhave chronic bronchitis, emphysema or asthmatic bronchitis and you startexperiencing symptoms of COPD, talk to your doctor. It's important to act quickly to preserve your lungs.
Tests and diagnosis