Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) (cont.)

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What is chronic asthma?

Asthma, like chronic bronchitis, is a disease of the airways. Obstruction to the flow of air is due to inflammation of the airways as well as spasm of muscles surrounding the airways in asthma. The narrowing that results from spasm of the muscles is called bronchospasm. Generally, bronchospasm in asthma is reversible and subsides spontaneously or with the use of bronchodilators (medications that relax the muscles surrounding the airways). We now know that a major component of asthma is inflammation of the airways, and this inflammation causes thickening of the walls of the airways. This inflammation involves different inflammatory cells and mediators than those seen in chronic bronchitis. This may play a role in the choice of anti-inflammatory medications for these similar yet different entities. In many asthmatics, anti-inflammatory medications such as inhaled steroids are required to reduce this inflammation. In long standing asthma, this chronic inflammation can lead to scarring and fixed airway obstruction.

What is bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is another abnormality that can be found in patients with COPD. In bronchiectasis, serious and repeated infections of the lung as well as abnormal development of the lung results in permanent damage to the airways. The damaged airways become enlarged tubes or, in more severe cases, large sacs. These segments of lung can impair clearance of secretions. The damaged, mucus-filled airways often become infected, resulting in further inflammation and damage to the airways. Patients with bronchiectasis often have a vigorous cough producing large amounts of infected mucus.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/13/2013

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
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