COPD vs. Emphysema: Is There a Difference?

COPD vs. Emphysema: What’s the Difference?

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  • The Effects of Smoking

    The Effects of Smoking

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma.

    Emphysema is usually the direct result of years of smoking cigarettes. It affects people who are middle-aged or elderly. Chronic bronchitis, which can occur earlier in life, also can be caused by smoking.

  • How Smoking Hurts Your Lungs

    How Smoking Hurts Your Lungs

    Healthy lungs filter the air we breathe. Coated with a thin layer of mucous, your lungs trap pollutants. Tiny brushes known as cilia sweep away the harmful particles so they can be expelled. When you cough, dirt and pollutants come up with the mucous.

    Because smoking destroys the cilia, your lungs can’t work properly—there is no way for the particles to get out. This results in damage to the tiny air sacs in the lungs called alveoli. This occurs among people with emphysema. 

    Inflammation caused by smoking can lead to chronic bronchitis, even though the lungs may not be damaged permanently.

  • Tiny Balloons in the Lungs

    Tiny Balloons in the Lungs

    Think of the alveoli like tiny balloons. They inflate and deflate when you breathe. But when the alveoli become damaged, they lose their ability to stretch and contract properly, which in turn makes it difficult to breathe. As alveoli become permanently stretched, the lungs will have trouble taking in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide. Heart and lung damage results in serious health problems.

  • What’s the Cause?

    What’s the Cause?

    Not everyone who develops COPD has a history of smoking cigarettes. Simply being exposed to second-hand smoke over time can have a negative impact on your health. Smoking marijuana may cause COPD too.

    Those who inhale cooking fumes, or are exposed to pollution for extended periods, (such as workplace hazards), can also develop COPD. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, people with HIV are at a 50 to 60 percent higher risk for developing COPD. In rare cases, genetics can influence COPD.

  • Is There a Cure?

    Is There a Cure?

    Damage to the lungs caused by emphysema is not reversible. However, emphysema and COPD are both treatable conditions.

    In addition to bronchodilators and inhaled steroids, people with these conditions may be given antibiotics to control infections. Other treatments include oxygen therapy. In rare cases, lung reduction surgery, or even a lung transplant may be required.

    Making lifestyle modifications can make your life easier if you suffer from these conditions. Modifying housework, cooking, and other chores may result in less damage to the lungs. Keeping windows closed on polluted days also helps.


  • Trash the Cigarettes!

    Trash the Cigarettes!

    Anyone who has COPD or wants to prevent it needs give up smoking immediately. Almost 80 percent of people with COPD developed it from smoking, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

    Smoking cessation is often the first line of treatment for patients with emphysema or other types of COPD. Prescription oral medications and patches can both decrease nicotine cravings.

  • The Jury's out on Electronic Cigarettes

    The Jury's out on Electronic Cigarettes

    Little is known about how electronic cigarettes affect the lungs and whether they may contribute to emphysema or any other type of COPD. Marketed as a way to quit smoking, it’s unclear whether e-cigarettes pose their own health risks.

    The American Lung Association has called on the Obama Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate electronic cigarettes. The association recommends that people trying to stop smoking use an FDA-approved medication instead.

  • Healthy Living

    Healthy Living

    Besides quitting smoking, good nutrition and managing stress also help manage emphysema and other forms of COPD. People with emphysema are often underweight and need vitamins A, C, and E. Fruits and vegetables should always be a part of your balanced diet.

    Stress also can aggravate COPD. Tai chi and yoga both are ways to reduce stress and have shown promise in helping people manage emphysema.

  • Protect Your Lungs

    Protect Your Lungs

    COPD usually can be prevented by maintaining healthy habits. But it remains the third leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 24 million people, or six percent of the population, according to the COPD Foundation and American Lung Association.

    In addition to quitting smoking or never picking up the habit, you can protect your lungs by avoiding pollutants. If you work in an environmentally hazardous job, discuss safety measures with your supervisor.

Thank you!

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