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What are the Causes and Risks of COPD in Smokers and Non-Smokers?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a chronic lung disease that restricts airflow from the lungs.

While individuals who are regular tobacco users are much more likely to develop COPD, non-smokers can also be at risk for contracting this dangerous disease. Whether it’s via second-hand smoke or harmful fumes circulating throughout your home, the condition of your lungs can weaken over time without you even noticing. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to position yourself for a long, fulfilling life. Your lungs are instrumental to your overall health and knowing the causes of airway obstruction and lung disease can truly mean the difference between life and death. Learn more about what causes COPD and how it can affect you and your loved ones if not treated properly.

How Tobacco Factors In

It’s practically common knowledge that smoking tobacco regularly can have an abundance of negative effects on your overall health. Naturally, your lungs become less efficient and more unstable the more they’re exposed to tobacco smoke. The immediate effects of tobacco smoking can range from asthma and constant coughing, which may seem mild when compared to the lasting damage it can cause down the road. In short, smoking damages the cells that line your lungs. As smoke travels into your lungs, carrying plenty of cancer-causing substances, your lung tissue will begin to change almost immediately after being exposed. Not only does smoking make it harder for you to be active, breathe regularly, and live addiction-free, but it also can put you at risk for a number of potentially fatal diseases, including lung disease, pneumonia, emphysema, and COPD.

If you’ve been thinking, “Can non-smokers get COPD?”, the answer is yes. What causes COPD in non-smokers can be environmental or personal issues, including air pollution, secondhand smoke, and regular exposure to harmful fumes. So whether you’ve smoked all your life or have never touched a cigarette, you have the potential to develop COPD, making the need to know the causes of COPD all the more important.

Major Risk Factors

COPD in smokers and COPD in non-smokers may vary in terms of symptoms, progression, and treatment. There are four stages of COPD. Your airflow becomes more and more restricted as you move towards the final stage of COPD, making early treatment all the more important. Major risk factors for COPD include inhaling and/or exposure to tobacco smoke, having asthma and smoking, and occupational exposures to dust, harmful chemicals, or fumes. Age and genetics also play a role.

Based off these risk factors, you may feel like COPD development may be out of your hands. However, there are many steps you can take in order to greatly diminish your chances of developing COPD. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, try to quit. If your job requires you to be exposed to harmful fumes and toxins, wear a protective mask that lessens your exposure. Staying in good shape, eating healthy, and learning self-care techniques that focus on keeping your lungs strong and healthy are all effective ways to combat COPD from developing in the first place.

How COPD Can Affect You and Your Loved Ones

The stages of COPD symptoms range from mild to severe. A common symptom associated with COPD is Barrel Chest, which results in you having a rounded, bulging chest that could indicate an underlying disease forming. Whether you’re someone who’s suffering from COPD or know someone who is, you’ll likely have to get used to the changes that inevitably follow a COPD diagnosis. While COPD isn’t curable, it can be treated in order to help a loved one have the best possible life. Watching someone you love go through the stages of COPD can be frustrating, saddening, and confusing. You should know that support groups are available to those who wish to discuss these feelings and emotions regarding COPD. The physical toll this chronic lung disease takes on an individual can be brutal, so the love and support of family and friends is incredibly important towards helping the diagnosed individual stay strong.

COPD diagnoses often occur well after the disease is advanced and has spread, so equipping yourself with knowledge regarding the causes and risk factors associated with COPD will greatly improve your chances of staying healthy and happy. Simply living a health-conscious lifestyle that avoids tobacco and other harmful fumes could make all the difference down the road.

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