COPD: Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis

by Agnes Krisantibullet
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Reviewed by dr. Bandoro
COPD: Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis
COPD: Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis

Air pollution is not only harmful to the upper respiratory tract but also causes COPD. Let's learn about it and related illnesses!

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of disorders that damage the lungs over an extended period of time. Or what is known as a chronic lung disease.

COPD can obstruct air passage in the lungs, resulting in difficulty breathing. This condition is typically a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.


Most people with emphysema are smokers or people who constantly inhale irritants. Shortness of breath can be among the first signs. It started only during exercise, but it gradually worsened until it was difficult to breathe even at rest.

Emphysema is a condition where the alveoli, or air sacs in the lungs, are damaged. The damage begins with the weakening of the air sacs until they finally rupture. Ultimately, emphysema can cause the lungs to lose their elasticity.

The rupture of the air sacs reduces the surface area of the lungs and the amount of oxygen delivered through the blood. This makes breathing difficult, especially during exercise.

Emphysema cannot currently be healed. Treatment normally seeks to reduce the disease's course and alleviate symptoms.

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis, like emphysema, is typically associated with smoking behaviors and exposure to air pollution. Bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which transport air into the lungs.

When the membranes of these channels get irritated, they expand and thicken, restricting the airways. It causes a person to experience shortness of breath.

Bronchitis is considered chronic if symptoms persist for more than three months within two years. This continual inflammation causes sticky mucus to collect in the airways, making it harder for air to enter and leave the lungs.

Chronic bronchitis symptoms include a prolonged cough (that does not go away), coughing up yellow, green, or white mucus, wheezing, and chest discomfort.


So, the fundamental cause of COPD is lung tissue deterioration and obstruction. Risk factors for the illness's progression include:

  • Prolonged use of cigarettes or exposure to cigarette smoke.
  • Exposure to air pollution includes dust, smoke, and some chemicals.
  • Asthmatic since childhood.
  • Having a rare genetic disorder. For instance, a deficiency in particular proteins.

COPD appears only when the lungs are severely damaged. The symptoms will worsen over time. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, particularly during strenuous activity.
  • Chronic cough with reddish phlegm.
  • Tired easily.
  • Wheezing.
  • Unexpected weight loss.
  • Swollen feet and calves.
  • The stomach feels full and swollen.

COPD can't be cured. However, medication is still required to alleviate symptoms, extend life expectancy, and prevent complications.

COPD patients are at a significant risk of developing other health consequences, such as lung infections (flu or pneumonia), lung cancer, heart difficulties, weak muscles and brittle bones, depression, or anxiety.

Typically, a doctor will recommend treatment, such as

  1. Drugs. To help breathing, doctors usually prescribe bronchodilators. Corticosteroid medications can also be used to treat pulmonary inflammation.

  2. Oxygen therapy. Given to patients who are seriously ill and have difficulties breathing. Oxygen is administered using assistance devices such as masks, ventilators, and oxygen cylinders.

  3. Operation. This surgery is used when other treatments are ineffective. The goal is to reduce lung volume (LVRS), perform bullectomy, or undergo lung transplantation.

  4. Lifestyles change. Doctors can also urge patients to live a healthier lifestyle by stopping smoking, avoiding air pollution, eating nutritious foods, and exercising regularly.

A healthy lifestyle will help to maintain the health of your respiratory system. Protecting children from smoke and dust is just as vital as protecting ourselves. Let's be more aware and look after one another.

ReferenceHealthline. Accessed in 2023. Emphysema: Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors. Healthline. Accessed in 2023. Understanding Chronic Bronchitis. Siloam Hospital. Accessed in 2023. Apa Itu Penyakit Paru Obstruktif Kronis. WHO. Accessed in 2023. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).