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I. Introduction

COPD, short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a condition that causes frequent discomfort, shortness of breath, and hospitalization for many people. More than 65 million people worldwide have COPD and 3 million new cases are diagnosed each year.

What are the causes of COPD? What are the symptoms? And what are the treatment options?

In this article, we take a closer look at the disease:

  1. Definition, statistics and causes of COPD
  2. The symptoms of COPD
  3. The diagnosis of COPD
  4. Treatment methods for COPD
  5. Lifestyle changes in COPD
  6. Preventive measures against COPD

Definition of COPD

COPD is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease characterized by damage to the structure of the lungs and reduced lung function. COPD is not a single disease, but a group of diseases that lead to a decrease in lung function. These diseases include

  • asthma
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • emphysema

COPD is a progressive disease that can lead to severe breathing difficulties and an increased risk of serious respiratory problems. Unlike other lung diseases where symptoms improve over time, in COPD symptoms are progressive and the disease gets worse over time.

Statistics on the prevalence of COPD

COPD is one of the most common chronic diseases in Germany. According to federal statistics, between 6 and 7 million people in Germany suffer from COPD. About 400,000 people are newly diagnosed every year. Statistics show that COPD primarily affects older people. According to official sources, about 6.5 percent of people over the age of 65 have COPD. COPD prevalence is particularly high in the following age groups:

Over 65 years


over 75 years


over 85 years


About 80 percent of COPD patients are smokers or ex-smokers. Regular exposure to tobacco smoke or pollution is also a risk factor for COPD. Statistics show that COPD is more common in women than in men. In addition, people who work in mining, metalworking or the chemical industry and are regularly exposed to high levels of pollution are particularly at risk.

II. Causes of COPD

COPD is a serious chronic lung disease caused by progressive, irreversible narrowing of the airways. It can be triggered by the following factors

  • Cigarette Smoking: Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. It is known that more than 90% of COPD patients are smokers.
  • Environmental Factors: Environmental exposures such as dust, chemicals, and exhaust fumes can also contribute to the development of COPD.
  • Genetic predisposition: Studies have shown that a genetic predisposition can influence the development of COPD. People who are both prone to smoking and have certain genetic abnormalities are at a higher risk of developing COPD.
  • Other factors: Other factors such as age, gender, and certain medical conditions can also influence the development of COPD.

Importantly, most people who suffer from COPD have multiple causes. It is therefore important that each patient receives appropriate treatment, tailored to their individual needs.

Smoking and COPD

The main cause of COPD is smoking. If you smoke you are at an increased risk of developing COPD, and the more you smoke, the higher the risk. Although the risk exists with all types of smoking, it is highest with cigarette smokers. About 85 to 90 percent of COPD cases are due to smoking.

Other sources of smoke besides cigarette smoking can cause or worsen COPD. This includes

  • Passive smoking - when you inhale the smoke of others
  • Hookah smoking - mostly in combination with tobacco
  • smoking cigars
  • smoking cannabis
  • Inhalation of pollutants at work - certain jobs that involve inhaling toxic gases also increase the risk.

Therefore, all forms of smoking, including secondhand smoke, should be avoided to reduce the risk of developing COPD. If you smoke, it is important that you stop smoking immediately, or at least try to reduce your consumption.

Air pollution and COPD

The effects of air pollution on human health are very serious. One of the most serious diseases caused by exposure to particulate matter is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It is one of the most common chronic lung diseases worldwide and causes up to 3 million deaths every year.

The main causes of COPD are smoking and exposure to harmful particles in the air, mainly caused by air pollution. The main source of these harmful particles are industrial emissions emitted by factories and power plants. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels also plays an important role.

Harmful particles in the air can accumulate in the entire organism if they get into the lungs and lead to inflammation of the airways and alveoli.

Short-term health effects of air pollution from fine dust in the air we breathe can be

  • Irritation of eyes, nose and throat
  • Worsening of asthma and allergic reactions
  • reduction in lung function
  • Increased risk of respiratory infections
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke

Long-term consequences include COPD, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and other chronic respiratory diseases.

genetic factors

There are some genetic factors that increase the risk of developing COPD. This includes

  • Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: Alpha-1 antitrypsin is an enzyme found in the human body. If it is not produced in sufficient quantities, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency can result. This deficiency increases the risk of developing COPD.
  • Familial predisposition: If someone has close relatives who have COPD, their risk of developing COPD themselves increases.
  • Smoking: Smoking is one of the most common factors contributing to COPD. Even if someone smokes but does not have alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency or a family history, they can still develop COPD.

For an accurate diagnosis of COPD, it is important for the doctor to take genetic factors into account. Genetic factors can also play an important role in treatment.

III. Symptoms of COPD

The most common symptoms of COPD are

  • Cough that gets worse especially with physical exertion
  • Mucus that is thick and difficult to cough up
  • shortness of breath
  • shortness of breath
  • Shortness of breath on physical exertion
  • chest pain
  • Inability to normal physical exertion
  • persistent deterioration in lung function

The symptoms can worsen as the disease progresses. Symptoms associated with COPD include

  • Decreased sleep quality
  • chest pain
  • pain when coughing
  • gas
  • sleep disorders
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • back pain
  • Headache
  • loss of appetite

shortness of breath

Shortness of breath is a common symptom of COPD, in which sufferers experience a decrease in breathing rate and the work of breathing. Some of the most common causes of shortness of breath are

  • Persistent obstruction of the lower airways (mucociliary dysfunction).
  • Decrease in lung capacity due to decrease in lung volume.
  • Loss of lung volume Emphysema as a result of disease.
  • Reduction of the oxygen concentration in the air, especially with insufficient oxygen supply.
  • Decrease in lung function due to inflammation.
  • Hyperventilation from anxiety or stress.

Shortness of breath can manifest itself in a number of ways, e.g. B:

  • Exercise-related shortness of breath
  • shortness of breath at rest
  • decreased stamina
  • difficulty speaking
  • Rapid inhalation and exhalation
  • rattling breathing
  • Breath sounds that can be described as gasping or barking
  • short pauses between breaths
  • general feeling of exhaustion

cough and phlegm

One of the most common symptoms of COPD is a persistent cough, often accompanied by sputum and phlegm in the throat. The cough can get worse when a person exerts themselves, increases their activity level, or is exposed to an unfavorable environment. Cough is a symptom that can get worse over time.

The sputum can be mucous, runny or thick and sometimes it is difficult to cough it up. There may also be a daily or weekly increase in sputum called a "morning cough." Mucus that builds up due to inflammation can lead to a chronic dry cough. In severe cases, the sputum may also contain blood or pus.

Typical symptoms of cough and sputum in COPD are

  • Persistent cough that worsens with overexertion, increased physical activity or unfavorable environmental conditions.
  • Mucus production that can damage the airways
  • Expectoration that may be mucous, thin, or thick
  • Daily or weekly increase in sputum.
  • In severe cases, the sputum may also contain blood or pus.

tightness in the chest

A common symptom of COPD is chest tightness. This is a feeling of tightness or heaviness in the chest that causes shortness of breath. It can have a variety of causes, but it can also be an indication of COPD or other lung diseases.

Causes of chest tightness

Chest tightness can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Asthma: Asthma is a common cause of chest tightness. In asthmatics, the trachea can narrow, leading to shortness of breath and chest tightness.
  • COPD: COPD is a lung disease that causes shortness of breath and chest tightness. People with COPD often experience shortness of breath and chest tightness.
  • Cardiomegaly: Cardiomegaly is an enlargement of the heart that can cause shortness of breath and chest tightness.
  • Emotional Stress: Psychological stress can cause chest tightness.
  • Physical exertion: Heavy physical exertion can also cause chest tightness.

fatigue and weakness

Fatigue and weakness are common symptoms of COPD. Since the disease can damage the airways, those affected are no longer able to take in sufficient oxygen. This can lead to a feeling of exhaustion as the tissues are not getting the oxygen they need.

Fatigue and weakness can worsen after physical activity, but even without physical activity, the effort required to keep breathing and maintaining bodily functions can eventually exhaust the sufferer.

Other symptoms that can accompany fatigue and weakness are

  • loss of appetite
  • anxiety states
  • sleep disorders
  • memory disorders
  • difficulty concentrating

Good treatment is crucial to combat fatigue and weakness. It is important that the patient discusses with their doctor what treatment is most appropriate for their specific symptoms. Some possible treatments are

  • Physiotherapy: It can help relieve feelings of tiredness and weakness by improving breathing and general well-being.
  • Dietary changes: Eating a healthy diet can help provide the body with the nutrients it needs to fight fatigue and weakness.
  • Medications: There are a number of medications that can help relieve fatigue and weakness. These include bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressants.

weight loss

Weight loss is a typical symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Although weight loss is a common symptom of COPD, the precise relationship to COPD is not fully understood. Research suggests that weight loss in COPD patients may be due to a combination of factors.

causes of weight loss

Weight loss is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization in COPD patients. It can be caused by different factors or a combination of different factors. Some of the most common causes of weight loss in COPD are:

  • Malnutrition: COPD can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss.
  • Breathing problems: COPD sufferers often have difficulty breathing, which can cause them to eat fewer calories than normal.
  • Medications: Some medications that COPD patients take can lead to weight loss.
  • Inflammation: Inflammation caused by COPD can lead to weight loss.
  • Depression: Depression caused by COPD can lead to weight loss.

IV. Diagnosis of COPD

Diagnosing COPD can be difficult because the symptoms often resemble those of other respiratory diseases. Therefore, it is important that the diagnosis is based on a thorough examination of the patient by a qualified doctor.

When making a diagnosis, the following tests are usually carried out

  • Lung function test (spirometric measurement): This test measures the patient's lung capacity and can help diagnose COPD.
  • Blood test: A blood test can indicate whether you have COPD.
  • Physical exam: The doctor examines the patient for signs of a respiratory illness, such as a cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing.
  • Chest X-ray: This test can help detect signs of worsening lung function.
  • Chest computed tomography: This scan can help identify signs of COPD.
  • Blood gas analysis: A blood gas analysis can help determine the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the patient's blood.

In some cases, further tests are done to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of COPD. These tests may include a bronchoscopy, a lung biopsy, or testing for pneumonia.

V. Treatment of COPD

Treatment of COPD aims to relieve symptoms and improve lung function. Treatment changes over the years depending on the stage of the disease and the individual needs of the patient. The first step in treating COPD is to improve the flow of stale air:

  • Do not smoke
  • Taking medication to relieve symptoms
  • endurance training
  • right nutrition

In more severe cases of COPD, drugs are prescribed that reduce the inflammatory process and expand the bronchi. In advanced stages of COPD, a lung transplant may be necessary.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while treating COPD is important to control symptoms and prevent the disease. The most important rules of conduct are

  • avoid smoking
  • Avoid poor air quality
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Do sports regularly
  • Eat healthy
  • Go for regular check-ups
  • protection against infections

medication to relieve symptoms

Treatment for COPD usually involves both medication and lifestyle changes. Medications can help relieve symptoms and reduce the severity of the condition.

  • Bronchodilators: These drugs help relax and widen the airways, making it easier to breathe. They can be either inhaled or taken orally. They include
    • Anticholinergics: These drugs block the effects of acetylcholine, a substance that narrows the airways.
    • Beta-2 agonists: These drugs help relax the airways and improve breathing.
    • Methylxantine: These drugs have an effect similar to that of beta-2 agonists, but are absorbed more slowly.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids reduce inflammation in the airways and help relieve symptoms. They are usually inhaled, but sometimes taken in tablet form.
  • Combination medications: Some medications combine a bronchodilator with a corticosteroid. This combination can relieve symptoms better than a single drug.
  • Immunomodulators: These drugs can reduce inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of severe exacerbations.

oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy is a treatment for COPD that provides a way to increase oxygen levels in the lungs and improve oxygen levels in the blood. This can help alleviate the symptoms of the condition and improve quality of life.

Oxygen therapy can be performed with an oxygen concentrator or an oxygen cylinder. A concentrator measures the breathing air and supplies the patient with oxygen-enriched breathing air. An oxygen cylinder contains liquid oxygen that is given to the patient.

Benefits of Oxygen Therapy

  • Helps the patient to absorb oxygen and better saturate the blood.
  • Reduces shortness of breath and improves heart function.
  • Improves physical resilience.
  • Can prevent infections.
  • May reduce the risk of complications in COPD patients.

Side effects of oxygen therapy:

  • May cause nausea and headaches.
  • May increase risk of pneumonia.
  • May cause eye problems.
  • Can cause ear pain.
  • May cause skin irritation.


Rehabilitation is an important adjunct to the medical management of COPD. It is intended to help those affected to improve their skills and restore their health. Rehabilitation involves a range of therapeutic approaches designed to help those affected lead better lifestyles while improving their independence and quality of life.

The following activities are recommended for COPD rehabilitation:

  • Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises can help improve breathing capacity and control breathing.
  • Muscle training: Muscle training can help improve muscle strength, allowing sufferers to breathe more easily.
  • Endurance training: Endurance training can help those affected to be less prone to breathing difficulties.
  • Dietary advice: Dietary advice and diet suggestions can help people be less prone to lung infections and lead healthier lives.
  • Psychological Counseling: Psychological counseling can help alleviate the psychological distress associated with COPD.
  • Drug therapy: Drug therapy can help relieve symptoms of COPD and improve quality of life.

Surgical interventions

In certain cases of COPD, surgery may be necessary to relieve symptoms. However, surgery is only successful if COPD is diagnosed at an early stage. The following surgeries can help with COPD:

  • Lung Volume Reduction: In this surgery, a lobe of the lung is reduced by removing inflamed tissue and narrowing the airways.
  • Lung transplant: In this operation, a seriously diseased lung is replaced with a healthy lung from a donor.
  • Bronchoscopy: A surgical procedure that allows the doctor to view the patient's airway and detect any abnormalities.
  • Lung resection: Surgical procedure to remove part or a lobe of the lung.
  • Lung augmentation: In this type of surgery, the lung volume is increased by relaxing the chest muscles.

It is recommended that patients inform their doctor about possible side effects before surgery. The risks of surgery should also be discussed with the doctor before a decision is made.

VI. Lifestyle changes in COPD

There are many ways to make changes to improve the course of COPD. People with COPD can achieve a better quality of life if they take certain precautions.

A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. People with COPD should eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Eating a balanced diet with foods rich in fiber, protein, carbohydrates and fats is also important. Adequate hydration is also important to keep the airways moist and the body hydrated.

Physical activity is another important part of a healthy lifestyle in COPD. COPD patients should try to get at least 30 minutes of light physical activity each day. It is important to modulate the effort and make sure that the load does not go beyond an average level.

It is also important that people with COPD avoid known triggers, as these can make the condition worse. These include cigarette smoke, air pollution and extreme temperatures.

Psychological support is also an important part of COPD treatment. It is important for people with this condition to be mentally healthy in order to be able to cope with the limitations and discomfort that come with COPD. This can be accomplished through participation in mental health support groups, counseling sessions, and other psychological support programs.

VII. Prevention of COPD

Prevention of COPD is an important part of treatment. Some behaviors and measures can significantly reduce the risk of developing COPD.

  • Avoiding the use of cigarettes, tobacco and other nicotine products: This is the most important factor in preventing COPD. Adults who have smoked should quit smoking as soon as possible. Since there is also a risk of COPD for passive smokers, they should avoid staying in smoky rooms if possible.
  • Exercise regularly: Daily and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of developing COPD.
  • Reduce Exposure to Toxic Substances: Avoidable external toxins in the workplace and at home should be avoided as they pose a risk of their own.
  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fiber can reduce the risk of COPD.
  • Immunization: Some vaccines can reduce the risk of aerosol exposure and therefore the risk of developing COPD.

Prevention of COPD is an important part of treatment and should therefore be taken seriously. A healthy lifestyle, regular physical activity and avoiding harmful substances can help reduce the risk of developing COPD.

VIII. Conclusion

COPD is a serious chronic disease that, if not treated properly, can severely impact quality of life and even lead to death. Therefore, it is important that people with COPD are diagnosed as early as possible and receive appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes. Although COPD is a serious health problem, for many people, with the right treatment and lifestyle, symptoms can be significantly reduced. It is important that COPD patients are checked regularly to detect early deterioration of the disease and prevent recurrence. In addition, people at risk for COPD should pay attention to preventive behaviors. These include quitting smoking and other bad habits, breathing clean air, and living a healthy lifestyle. By taking these actions, people can reduce their risk of developing COPD and live healthier, longer lives.


What is the difference between COPD and asthma?

Both COPD and asthma are respiratory diseases that can cause shortness of breath. However, the difference lies in the cause and course of the diseases. Asthma is an inflammatory disease that usually occurs at a young age and can be made worse by triggers such as allergens or infections. COPD, on the other hand, is often the result of long-term use of tobacco and other pollutants that damage the lungs. COPD usually develops slowly over years and is usually not fully reversible.

How does COPD affect life expectancy?

COPD can shorten life expectancy, especially when it is severe and not treated appropriately. However, there are many factors that can affect life expectancy, such as: B. Age, severity of COPD, comorbidities and lifestyle. With the right treatment and a healthy lifestyle, people with COPD can live long and fulfilling lives.

Can you get COPD without smoking?

Yes, there are other factors that can cause COPD such as air pollution, occupational exposure to toxins, and genetic predisposition. Nevertheless, smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD.

Can COPD be cured?

There is no complete cure for COPD, but early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can relieve symptoms and slow disease progression. Quitting smoking, regular physical activity and a healthy diet can also help to improve the quality of life.

How can I relieve my discomfort at home?

There are many ways to relieve COPD symptoms at home, such as: B. through inhalation devices, breathing exercises, dietary changes, physical activity and avoidance of triggers such as air pollution and smoking.

How often should I check my COPD symptoms?

It is important to monitor your COPD symptoms regularly to catch any worsening early on. Discuss with your doctor how often you should check your symptoms and how best to do it.

How can I avoid exacerbations of my COPD?

To avoid exacerbations, it's important to keep track of your COPD symptoms and follow your treatment closely. Avoid triggers like smoking and air pollution, and avoid being too hot or too cold. Discuss with your doctor if you need additional medications to prevent exacerbations.

What type of physical activity is best for people with COPD?

There are different types of physical activity that are appropriate for people with COPD. This includes, for example, endurance and strength training as well as breathing exercises. It is important that physical activity is adapted to individual needs and abilities.

Can I travel with COPD?

Yes, it is basically possible to travel with COPD. However, it is important to prepare well in advance and, if necessary, to consult the doctor treating you. This includes, for example, taking enough medication with you and planning breaks during the trip.

What are the risks of COPD surgeries?

COPD operations can be associated with various risks, such as complications during the operation or postoperative bleeding. There may also be an increased risk of infection and other complications after surgery. It is important to find out about the risks and possible alternatives in advance and, if necessary, to speak to the doctor treating you.

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