COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is just one of many conditions that are caused by chronic cigarette smoking. It is an irreversible disease that causes obstruction to the airway because of inflammation due to toxin inhalation. Cigarettes contain more than a hundred toxic chemicals that are detrimental to the health when taken by the body in large amounts. These include tar, nicotine, lighter fluid, a sprinkling of cyanide and other poisonous substances. Over time, chronic chain smokers develop signs and symptoms of the disease especially if they have been smoking for twenty years or more.
COPD in general is caused by the progressive inflammation, swelling, and eventually, obstruction of the respiratory tract’s airway. Acute productive cough is the cardinal sign of the disease. Bronchi, or the basic unit of the lungs and the site of gas exchange between the cells is also affected, making the individual prone to poor oxygenation and hypoxemia. Because of poor oxygenation and inflammation of the respiratory lining, large amounts of mucus are produced in the tract. This mechanism attempts to minimize the swelling and infection. A person with COPD experiences productive cough in as little as three months to a couple of years, tops. Because of the excessive mucus production and cough, the airway gradually constricts, that’s why COPD patients experience shortness of breath all the time.
According to research studies, tobacco smoking instantly causes irritation to the lungs faster than cigarette. Many tobacco smokers acquire chronic bronchitis many times during their lifetime.
Genetics is a rare predisposing factor in patients with COPD. There are people who are incapable of producing or are deficient in alpha-1 antitrypsin. This enzyme hinders the production of a protein that is crucial in protecting the lungs from infection and damage. For smokers, even if they smoke only a few years back, they are quite prone to COPD if they lack the enzyme, and for non-smokers, it will take a long while before they get susceptible to the disease.
Some of the other factors that can predispose a patient to COPD include low birth weight, secondary smoking, primary complex, and constant exposure to mineral dust, chemical fumes, and cotton fibers for factory workers.