Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a group of diseases – most often chronic bronchitis and emphysema – that negatively affect your ability to breathe. Smoking is the number one cause of COPD, but it’s not the only cause. So, what causes COPD other than smoking?
What causes COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease results from long-term exposure to irritants that damage your lungs. The most common cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is cigarette smoke.
Other causes of COPD include exposure to radon gas, chemical fumes, indoor and outdoor air pollution, dust, and other harmful particulates in the air.
Some smokers never develop COPD, while some people who never smoke develop the disease. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but genetic factors could contribute to a person’s risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Can you prevent COPD?
More than 11 million Americans have COPD, and it’s the third leading cause of death in the U.S. What makes these figures even more alarming is the fact that the disease is highly preventable.
While you can’t completely prevent the diseases associated with COPD, you can significantly decrease your risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Since most cases of COPD are caused by cigarette smoke, not smoking and encouraging those around you not to smoke is a great way to help prevent COPD.
The lung damage caused by COPD is irreversible, and the condition gets progressively worse over time. This means that prevention is your best option.
There is some evidence that eating more fruits and vegetables can reduce the chances of developing COPD even for former smokers.
It’s best to prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease before it occurs. There’s no cure for COPD. The disease can be treated, however.
The most important thing you can do is stop smoking, or never start smoking. Talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of COPD such as a chronic cough, tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath. Your doctor may refer you to a pulmonologist for testing or treatment.