If you’re 40 years or older and you have symptoms similar to that of asthma, have yourself checked – you might have COPD.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a common lung disease among adults over 40 years of age. COPD makes it hard for you to breathe and it is often mistaken as asthma. However, COPD is more dangerous – while asthma can be treated as you get older, COPD can be fatal as it worsens over time.

According to ManilaMed pulmonologist Dr. Lai Lee Lam, asthma and COPD differ in genesis, prognosis, and treatment.

The main cause of COPD is long-term exposure to harmful substances that can ruin the lungs.

Genetic predisposition and work hazards like dust, chemicals, and pollution cause COPD. However, most COPD cases are due to lifestyle choices.

“Majority of COPD is caused by smoking,” Dr. Lam said. “If you’re an active or secondhand smoker, you have the potential to develop COPD.”

COPD has two main types: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is a respiratory disease that damages your alveoli, the air sacs in your lungs where gas is exchanged, impairing your airflow when you exhale. Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, inflames your bronchial tubes, causing it to produce mucus which leads to  a chronic cough.

Since COPD is a chronic respiratory disease, the symptoms become more severe over time. Shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and mucus-filled coughs are among the symptoms of COPD. Lung failure resulting in death is the worst-case scenario.

As of today, there is no cure for COPD. However, the disease can be maintained and the symptoms alleviated. Treatment usually includes medicine, oxygen therapy, surgery, or lung transplant.

Dr. Lam believes that the best course to avoid COPD altogether is through lifestyle change.

“You better stop smoking” Dr. Lam advised. “Also, try to avoid exposing yourself to heavily polluted areas.”

COPD permanently takes away the pleasure of breathing freely. Those who have the disease find it difficult to engage in even simple tasks like walking or climbing the stairs. Treat your lungs right and you’ll be able to enjoy what life has to offer.

Dr. Lai Lee Lam discussed more about COPD during ManilaMed’s episode of ManilaMed Health Line last July 14. Click here to watch more. ManilaMed also offers means of diagnosing COPD such as the pulmonary function test and spirometry.

You can reach ManilaMed’s Respiratory Therapy Department at (02) 523 8131 loc. 2202. This department is open 24/7 and is available during holidays.