Something You Should Know About COPD

July 16, 2012 0 Comments

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious lung disease characterized by progressive airflow limitation in the lungs. It is well-known that COPD is caused by a local inflammation in the lungs, yet latest researches have revealed some interesting findings about COPD that you should know.

Inflammation Plays A Key Role In COPD

COPD is caused by an increased inflammatory response of the lungs to cigarette smoking, air pollution, working for many years in a dusty environment, and frequent bacterial infections of the upper respiratory system.

When the lungs are irritated by noxious particles or gases, they swell and produce a large quantity of mucus. If inflammation persists for a long time, the enzymes released by inflammatory cells can injure the walls of the airways and cause airway obstruction.

COPD Is A Systemic Inflammatory Disease

According to recent studies, COPD involves not only inflammatory response in the airway and the lungs, but also systemic inflammation. There is proof that stable COPD is associated with low-level systemic inflammation as shown by an increase in C reactive protein (CRP, an inflammatory marker) and cytokines (inflammatory mediators that affect cell communication, growth and death). The levels of inflammatory markers are inversely related to airflow restriction.

During acute exacerbations of COPD (worsening of COPD symptoms), the inflammatory response is further increased. Systemic inflammation induces oxidative stress, damages cellular membrane and DNA, and results in widespread tissue injury.

COPD affects a multitude of body systems distant from the lung. These include weight loss, skeletal muscle dysfunction, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and depression.

Accumulating evidence suggests that low-grade, chronic systemic inflammation is one of the key mechanisms underlying COPD-associated systemic effects. These extra-pulmonary symptoms of COPD are common and critical for the patient wellbeing and prognosis.

Systemic Inflammation In COPD Increases Cardiovascular Injury

Cigarette smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Smokers with COPD have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared with those without COPD. This risk further increases with increased severity of COPD and is highest among people hospitalized for COPD.

In patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, COPD is linked with increased cardiovascular events, i.e., heart attack, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. Emerging evidence indicates that increased oxidative stress that occurs during exacerbations of COPD, together with the enhanced systemic inflammatory response, have direct harmful effects on cardiac muscles and arteries. It is confirmed that increased inflammatory response destabilizes atherosclerotic plaques, promotes clot formation and triggers heart attack.

Systemic Inflammation In COPD Leads To Skeletal Muscle Dysfunction

Skeletal muscle dysfunction in COPD is apparent which is characterized by a decrease in muscle strength and loss of muscle tissue. Loss of muscle tissue is a complex process that involves changes in protein metabolism and muscle cell turnover. Impaired protein metabolism may result in muscle weakening when protein degradation exceeds protein synthesis.

There is sufficient evidence that increased inflammatory response contributes to muscle atrophy by boosting protein degradation and cell death, and lowering protein synthesis and cell regeneration. Other factors include poor nutrition, inactivity, heart failure, and reduced antioxidant defenses.

Systemic Inflammation In COPD Contributes To Osteoporosis

As many as 35 to 60% of COPD sufferers also are diagnosed with osteoporosis. As the severity of COPD progresses, the proportion of patients with osteoporosis increases. Many patients remain undiagnosed until their first fracture. With progressive loss of bone tissue, the patients are at high risk for vertebral or hip fractures. Fractures cause significant problems such as pain, worsened respiratory function, decreased movement, and increased death.

There are numerous risk factors that contribute to osteoporosis seen in COPD sufferers. These risk factors include smoking, vitamin D deficiency, low body mass, defects of the reproductive system, sedentary lifestyle, and use of glucocorticoids. Now we know that systemic inflammation may be the most important risk factor contributing to osteoporosis in COPD.

Systemic Inflammation In COPD Sets Up Depression And Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are common in COPD, which occur in 20-50% of COPD patients. They can adversely affect the course of COPD. Anxiety, for example, is associated with more severe dyspnea (difficulty in breathing) and greater disability. It also is a significant predictor of the frequency of hospitalizations for acute exacerbations of COPD.

Science has revealed that systemic inflammation plays a key role in depression. Inflammatory toxins can get into the brain and suppress neurotransmitters. In COPD, difficulty breathing can keep you from doing things that you enjoy. And it is also very difficult to deal with the disease that is progressive and incurable.

Inflammation Relief – A Whole Body Approach To COPD

There is no cure for COPD. Current treatments center on relieving the symptoms through:

— Bronchodilators that relax the bronchial muscles so the airways are widened, making it easier to breathe

— Antibiotics that reduce bacterial infection

— Steroids that help relax the airways and make breathing easier

These drugs are usually not prescribed for long-term use because of their harmful side effects. Furthermore, they do not control inflammatory response and have no effects on dysfunctions of other organs.

Because systemic inflammation is a common trigger in COPD and organ dysfunctions, control of inflammation is viewed as a promising approach to slowing down multiple organ dysfunctions.

Natural Anti-inflammatory Remedy As Alternative Approach

Based on scientific and pharmacological studies, a number of anti-inflammatory herbs may offer alternative solution to remove inflammatory toxins. Scute, Coptis, Turmeric, Astragalus, and Licorice are commonly used anti-inflammatory herbs in COPD remedies.

By reducing inflammatory toxins, anti-inflammatory remedies may:

— Clear airway obstruction and ease cough and help breathe easier.

— Remove lung destroying cells and reduce lung and airway tissue damage.

— Repair and heal lung and airway tissues.

— Reduce oxidative stress, a major aging factor and a primary contributor to many chronic diseases.

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