COPD: Looking for Efficacious Treatment Options

Published: 13 Feb 2002
By Balaji. K.

Coronary Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) consisting of chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which affect the lungs, is expected to become the fourth most prevalent killer disease in the world by 2020. The lung capacities of patients are reduced by as much as 40 percent in most cases which makes basic physical activities extremely difficult, thus, incapacitating patients.
Causes
Smoking has been found to be the primary cause of COPD, while air pollution has been pegged as the second causative agent. Occupational pollution, particularly from cadmium and silica, has proved to be another major risk factor among mine and construction workers. A rare genetic disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, can also cause COPD. This is usually treated by supplementing the deficient AAT through injections. Infectious diseases are the fifth common cause of COPD.
Current Treatment Trends
The first step in the treatment of COPD has been to ensure that the progression of the disease is slowed and premature death prevented. This involves removing or minimizing the exposure to the causative agent responsible for COPD; that is, if the patient is a smoker, he is advised to stop smoking. This is followed by a wide range of drug therapy that depends on the diagnosis and efficacy of the treatment. Long- and short-acting beta-agonist bronchodilators have played a crucial role in the treatment of COPD. Anti-cholinergic agents, oral corticosteroids, and oral glucocorticoids are also used if needed. Mucokinetic agents and antibiotics to treat chest infection, expectorants, and oxygen therapy (non-pharmacological therapy) are also used in conjunction with a pulmonary rehabilitation program.

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