Why I developed COPD?

Why Did I Develop COPD? Unraveling the Mystery Behind the Diagnosis

Getting a diagnosis of COPD can be both confusing and daunting. You might find yourself asking, "Why did this happen to me?" Understanding the factors that contribute to the development of COPD can shed light on your diagnosis and empower you to take control of your health. Let's delve into the fascinating and complex world of COPD to uncover the causes and risk factors.


What is COPD?

COPD is an umbrella term for a group of lung diseases, primarily including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This condition obstructs airflow, making it hard to breathe and causing symptoms like a persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and frequent respiratory infections. In most cases COPD worsens over time and significantly impacts the quality of life.

There are multiple factors that play a role in a person developing COPD. In broad categories think of these as internal factors and external factors. Usually, it’s a combination of that leads to COPD. The new GOLD guidelines also classify COPD Taxonomy based on what is the predominant cause of COPD in an individual.

Let’s talk about them:


Primary Causes of COPD

  1. Cigarette Smoking: The most notorious culprit behind COPD is cigarette smoking. A staggering 80-90% of COPD cases are linked to smoking. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke wreak havoc on your lungs and airways, causing inflammation, airway narrowing, and lung tissue destruction.

But not all smokers develop COPD. About 20-40% people who smoke end up developing COPD. This tells that there are other factors that play a role in making some people more susceptible to lung damage than others.

Secondhand smoke exposure also plays an important role. Living with a smoker or working in environments filled with tobacco smoke can expose you to secondhand smoke, increasing your risk of COPD.


  1. Environmental Pollutants: Prolonged exposure to air pollutants like dust, chemical fumes, and industrial smoke can be a silent contributor to COPD. This risk is particularly high for those working in industries like mining, construction, and manufacturing.


  1. Biomass fuels: A major reason for COPD in some countries is the use of biomass fuel like wood and coal in homes. In many parts of the world electric or liquid gas energy is not readily available or affordable and people rely on wood and coal burning for cooking and heating. This is a major risk factor for many women in low-middle income countries. The risk is higher if the homes have poor air ventilation.


  1. Genetic Factors: A genetic condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) can predispose you to COPD. This deficiency affects the production of a protein that protects your lungs, making them more vulnerable to damage.

Severel other genes are also associated with higher developing COPD and increase your susceptibility of lung damage due to environmental exposures.


  1. Chronic Respiratory Infections: Our lungs keep growing as we grow. They keep growing until teenage years. Frequent respiratory infections during childhood can leave a lasting mark on your lungs, increasing the risk of developing COPD later in life. This happens mostly due to restricted lung development making a person develop COPD even with little damage.


  1. Asthma: If you have asthma, especially if it’s not well-controlled, the chronic inflammation and airway obstruction can lead to lung damage similar to that seen in COPD.


Some additional risk factors all increase or susceptibility to lung damage.

  1. Age: COPD is more prevalent in individuals over 40. This is partly due to the natural decline in lung function with age and cumulative exposure to risk factors over the life years.
  1. Gender: While COPD has historically been more common in men, the incidence in women is rising due to changes in smoking patterns and occupational exposures. Women also tend to have a greater lung damage with same amount of smoking compared to men.
  1. Socioeconomic Status: Lower socioeconomic status is linked to a higher risk of COPD, likely due to increased exposure to pollutants, higher smoking rates, and limited access to healthcare.


Steps to Manage and Prevent COPD

  1. Quit Smoking: If you smoke, quitting is the single most crucial step to prevent further lung damage and slow COPD progression. Seek support from healthcare professionals, smoking cessation programs, and support groups.

Remember, it’s never too late to quit!

  1. Avoid Pollutants: Reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and occupational hazards. Use protective equipment if you work in environments with harmful fumes or dust. Avoid outdoor activities during the peak hours of pollution.
  1. Regular Check-Ups: Regular visits to your healthcare provider can help monitor your lung function and manage symptoms. Early detection and treatment of respiratory infections are essential.
  1. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and stay hydrated. These habits can boost your overall health and lung function.
  1. Vaccinations: Stay updated with vaccinations, such as the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, to reduce the risk of respiratory infections.


Understanding why you developed COPD is like piecing together a puzzle, considering factors like smoking history, environmental exposures, genetics, and other health conditions. While you can't change your past, you can take proactive steps to manage your condition and enhance your quality of life. By quitting smoking, avoiding pollutants, and embracing a healthy lifestyle, you can take charge of your health and slow the progression of COPD. Remember, partnering with your healthcare provider is key to effectively managing this chronic condition. Embrace the journey towards better health with knowledge and determination!