Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Constant exposure to tobacco smoke causes a chronic inflammation of the pulmonary tissues and mucous membranes of the bronchial tubes. The inflammation slowly causes emphysema and the permanent obstruction of the bronchial tubes. This weakens the flow of air in the lungs, leaving too much air in the lungs even after a strong exhalation. These are the principal causes of the shortness of breath experienced by those with COPD.
COPD is characterised by the permanent obstruction of small respiratory ducts, destruction of pulmonary tissue and slow exhalation. Even though the obstruction cannot be reversed, persons suffering from the disorder can influence the course of the disease and their prognosis and ability to function, to a significant degree.
Roughly 5–10 per cent of Finland’s adult population is estimated to suffer from COPD. The figure can be doubly as high if people with the first symptoms of COPD, i.e. chronic bronchitis, are counted.
Minor COPD will only have a slight detrimental effect on quality of life, but advanced forms of the disorder are severely limiting. Severe COPD causes a significant impairment in pulmonary function.