Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Last Updated: August 16, 2022

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a chronic disease of the lungs that involves airway damage and blockage that worsens over time. The progressively worsening airway blockage causes the main symptoms of COPD: difficulty breathing, cough, and mucus production. While the most common cause of COPD is smoking, other causes can include significant exposure to air pollutants, frequent respiratory infections, and untreated asthma. Standard COPD treatments include use of specific inhalers to relax and open up the airways.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) falls under theLungs & BreathingandHealthy Aging & Longevitycategories.

What is COPD?

COPD is a chronic condition which occurs due to irreversible damage to the lungs with common symptoms such as trouble breathing and cough.[1]

Normal lungs have many small stretchy air sacs that inflate upon inhalation and deflate upon exhalation. With COPD, less air can enter the lungs because air sacs have damaged walls and are less stretchy (this is called emphysema); and the airway becomes inflamed triggering cough and more mucus production (this is called chronic bronchitis). Most people have a COPD with both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, with variable severity.[2]

What are the main signs and symptoms of COPD?

Symptoms of COPD vary depending on the severity of the disease. The most common symptoms include shortness of breath and wheezing, chronic cough (often with mucus), and fatigue. COPD is often associated with frequent infections of the airways and sometimes with a blue tint of lips or fingernails (due to a lack of oxygen).[1] The systemic inflammation from COPD can also cause symptoms outside the lungs. This can manifest as unintentional weight loss, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, increased risk of cardiovascular disease.[3]

How is COPD diagnosed?

COPD is initially suspected when people present with long-term difficulty breathing and cough along with a risk factor such as smoking or exposure to pollution.[1] Healthcare providers diagnose COPD based on signs and symptoms, personal and family medical histories, and also test results (lung tests, imaging and blood tests).[2] Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have COPD; do not self-diagnose.

What are some of the main medical treatments for COPD?

After COPD is diagnosed, the mainstay of treatment includes stopping smoking (if currently smoking) and the use of inhalers (bronchodilators) to manage symptoms and prevent exacerbations. The types of inhalers and their frequency of use depends on the individual person’s severity of symptoms and number of exacerbations.[1]

Have any supplements been studied for COPD?

Not many supplements have been studied for COPD, and there’s no strong evidence that those that have been studied definitely help. beetroot juice, chlorella, honey, and black seed (black seed) oil are examples of supplements that have been studied for COPD.[4]

How could diet affect COPD?

A diet high in antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of developing COPD, though it is unclear whether this diet will help to manage symptoms. COPD is associated with worsened outcomes in malnourished individuals, such as muscle wasting and reduced exercise capacity, which leads to worsened quality of life and increased mortality risk, so it is especially important to maintain a healthy diet in those with COPD.[4]

Are there any other treatments for COPD?

Exercise is typically recommended to better manage COPD symptoms and progression. It seems that the type of exercise doesn’t matter as much as sticking to a regular exercise program.[5][6]

What causes COPD?

COPD is usually caused by long-term exposure to irritants that damage your lungs and airways. In the US, cigarette smoke is the main cause. Inhaling other types of smoke (pipe, cigar, biomass fuel, etc), pollution, and chemical fumes can also cause COPD. Also, some people have a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency which makes them more likely to sustain lung damage from pollution and smoke and sometimes lead to early-onset COPD.[7]

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References
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  2. ^The content of this page was partially adapted from MedlinePlus of the National Library of Medicine
  3. ^Agusti A, Soriano JBCOPD as a systemic disease.COPD.(2008-Apr)
  4. ^Einar Furulund, Mitra Bemanian, Nina Berggren, Tesfaye Madebo, Sara Hydle Rivedal, Torgeir Gilje Lid, Lars Thore FadnesEffects of Nutritional Interventions in Individuals with Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled TrialsInt J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis.(2021 Nov 17)
  5. ^Bernard McCarthy, Dympna Casey, Declan Devane, Kathy Murphy, Edel Murphy, Yves LacassePulmonary rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseCochrane Database Syst Rev.(2015 Feb 23)
  6. ^Renae J McNamara, Zoe J McKeough, David K McKenzie, Jennifer A AlisonWater-based exercise training for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseCochrane Database Syst Rev.(2013 Dec 18)
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  10. ^Kerley CP, James PE, McGowan A, Faul J, Cormican LDietary nitrate improved exercise capacity in COPD but not blood pressure or pulmonary function: a 2 week, double-blind randomised, placebo-controlled crossover trial.Int J Food Sci Nutr.(2019-Mar)
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  12. ^Keranis E, Makris D, Rodopoulou P, Martinou H, Papamakarios G, Daniil Z, Zintzaras E, Gourgoulianis KIImpact of dietary shift to higher-antioxidant foods in COPD: a randomised trial.Eur Respir J.(2010-Oct)
  13. ^Baldrick FR, Elborn JS, Woodside JV, Treacy K, Bradley JM, Patterson CC, Schock BC, Ennis M, Young IS, McKinley MCEffect of fruit and vegetable intake on oxidative stress and inflammation in COPD: a randomised controlled trial.Eur Respir J.(2012-Jun)
  14. ^Sugawara K, Takahashi H, Kashiwagura T, Yamada K, Yanagida S, Homma M, Dairiki K, Sasaki H, Kawagoshi A, Satake M, Shioya TEffect of anti-inflammatory supplementation with whey peptide and exercise therapy in patients with COPD.Respir Med.(2012-Nov)
  15. ^Ahnfeldt-Mollerup P, Hey H, Johansen C, Kristensen S, Brix Lindskov J, Jensahnfeldt-Mollerupen CThe effect of protein supplementation on quality of life, physical function, and muscle strength in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.Eur J Phys Rehabil Med.(2015-Aug)
  16. ^Constantin D, Menon MK, Houchen-Wolloff L, Morgan MD, Singh SJ, Greenhaff P, Steiner MCSkeletal muscle molecular responses to resistance training and dietary supplementation in COPD.Thorax.(2013-Jul)
  17. ^Salvi SS, Barnes PJChronic obstructive pulmonary disease in non-smokers.Lancet.(2009-Aug-29)
Examine Database References
  1. Weight - Fuld JP, Kilduff LP, Neder JA, Pitsiladis Y, Lean ME, Ward SA, Cotton MMCreatine supplementation during pulmonary rehabilitation in chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseThorax.(2005 Jul)
  2. Weight - Deacon SJ, Vincent EE, Greenhaff PL, Fox J, Steiner MC, Singh SJ, Morgan MDRandomized controlled trial of dietary creatine as an adjunct therapy to physical training in chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseAm J Respir Crit Care Med.(2008 Aug 1)
  3. COPD Symptoms - Faager G, Söderlund K, Sköld CM, Rundgren S, Tollbäck A, Jakobsson PCreatine supplementation and physical training in patients with COPD: a double blind, placebo-controlled studyInt J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis.(2006)
  4. Exercise Capacity (with Heart Conditions) - Al-Ghimlas F, Todd DCCreatine supplementation for patients with COPD receiving pulmonary rehabilitation: a systematic review and meta-analysisRespirology.(2010 Jul)
  5. Weight - Funamoto M, Sunagawa Y, Katanasaka Y, Miyazaki Y, Imaizumi A, Kakeya H, Yamakage H, Satoh-Asahara N, Komiyama M, Wada H, Hasegawa K, Morimoto THighly absorptive curcumin reduces serum atherosclerotic low-density lipoprotein levels in patients with mild COPDInt J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis.(2016 Aug 26)
  6. Weight - A Borghi-Silva, V Baldissera, L M M Sampaio, V A Pires-DiLorenzo, M Jamami, A Demonte, J S Marchini, D CostaL-carnitine as an ergogenic aid for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease submitted to whole-body and respiratory muscle training programsBraz J Med Biol Res.(2006 Apr)
  7. COPD Symptoms - Decramer M, Rutten-van Mölken M, Dekhuijzen PN, Troosters T, van Herwaarden C, Pellegrino R, van Schayck CP, Olivieri D, Del Donno M, De Backer W, Lankhorst I, Ardia AEffects of N-acetylcysteine on outcomes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Bronchitis Randomized on NAC Cost-Utility Study, BRONCUS): a randomised placebo-controlled trialLancet.(2005 Apr 30-May 6)
  8. COPD Symptoms - De Benedetto F, Aceto A, Dragani B, Spacone A, Formisano S, Pela R, Donner CF, Sanguinetti CMLong-term oral n-acetylcysteine reduces exhaled hydrogen peroxide in stable COPDPulm Pharmacol Ther.(2005)
  9. COPD Symptoms - Peter N Black, Althea Morgan-Day, Tracey E McMillan, Phillippa J Poole and Robert P YoungRandomised, controlled trial of N-acetylcysteine for treatment of acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseasePulmonary Medicine.()
  10. COPD Symptoms - Jiang C, Zou J, Lv Q, Yang YSystematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of N-acetylcysteine in the treatment of acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.Ann Palliat Med.(2021-Jun)
  11. COPD Symptoms - Huang C, Kuo S, Lin L, Yang YThe efficacy of -acetylcysteine in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients: a meta-analysis.Ther Adv Respir Dis.(2023)
  12. Neutrophil Activity - van Overveld FJ, Vermeire PA, De Backer WAInduced sputum of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) contains adhesion-promoting, therapy-sensitive factorsInflamm Res.(2000 Jan)
  13. Bronchitis Symptoms - Wei J, Pang CS, Han J, Yan HEffect of Orally Administered N-Acetylcysteine on Chronic Bronchitis: A Meta-analysis.Adv Ther.(2019-Dec)
  14. Lung Function - Matthys H, Pliskevich DA, Bondarchuk OM, Malek FA, Tribanek M, Kieser MRandomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of EPs 7630 in adults with COPDRespir Med.(2013 May)
  15. Lung Function - Pletcher MJ, Vittinghoff E, Kalhan R, Richman J, Safford M, Sidney S, Lin F, Kertesz SAssociation between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 yearsJAMA.(2012 Jan 11)
  16. Exercise Capacity (with Heart Conditions) - Marwood S, Jack S, Patel M, Walker P, Bowtell J, Calverley PNo effect of glutamine ingestion on indices of oxidative metabolism in stable COPDRespir Physiol Neurobiol.(2011 Jun 30)
  17. Exercise Tolerance - Kikuchi H, Shiozawa N, Takata S, Ashida K, Mitsunobu FEffect of repeated Waon therapy on exercise tolerance and pulmonary function in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a pilot controlled clinical trial.Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis.(2014)
  18. Forced Expiratory Volume - Yu H, Lei T, Su X, Zhang L, Feng Z, Dong M, Hou Z, Guo H, Liu JEfficacy and safety of three species of L. in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Front Pharmacol.(2023)
  19. Cathelicidin - Sanders EC, Burkes RM, Mock JR, Brown TT, Wise RA, Hansel NN, Liu MC, Drummond MBBronchoalveolar Lavage and Plasma Cathelicidin Response to 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D Supplementation: A Pilot Study.Chronic Obstr Pulm Dis.(2021-Jul-28)