COPD is particularly characterised by the spirometric measurement of a ratio of forced expiratory volume over 1 second (FEV1) to forced vital capacity (FVC)being < 0.7 and the FEV1 < 70% of the predicted value as measured by aplethysmograph. Other signs include a rapid breathing rate (tachypnea) and awheezing sound heard through a stethoscope. Pulmonary emphysema is NOT thesame as subcutaneous emphysema, which is a collection of air under the skin thatmay be detected by the crepitus sounds produced on palpation.
Cigarette smoking :
A primary risk factor of COPD is chronic tobaccosmoking. In the United States, around 90% of casesof COPD are due to smoking .Not all smokers willdevelop COPD, but continuous smokers have atleast a 25% risk.
Occupational pollutants :
Some occupational pollutants, such as cadmium and silica, have shown to bea contributing risk factor for COPD. The people at highest risk for thesepollutants include coal workers.
Air pollution :
Urban air pollution may be a contributing factor for COPD as it is thought toimpair the development of the lung function. In developing countries indoorair pollution, usually due to biomass fuel, has been linked to COPD, especiallyin women.
Very rarely, there may be a deficiency in an enzyme known as alpha 1-antitrypsin which causes a form of COPD.
Other risk factors :
Increasing age, male gender, allergy, repeated airway infection and generalimpaired lung function are also related to the development of COPD.