COPD: A Possible Explanation for Your Breathing Discomfort

According to the Ministry of Health of Singapore, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in the country. As there is currently no cure for COPD , proactive prevention and effective symptom management is the most crucial for safeguarding respiratory health and overall well-being.
By the team at Speedoc,
November 15, 2023

COPD Explained

COPD refers to the persistent  condition of airflow blockage and labored breathing. Disorders such as chronic obstructive bronchiolitis and emphysema are examples of COPD.

Chronic Obstructive Bronchiolitis


  • Bronchi inflammation which leads to the constriction of the airways and production of thick, sticky mucus that adds to the obstruction. 

  • Persistent cough with phlegm lasting for more than 3 months in the span of 2 years

  • Extensive and permanent damage of air sacs wall that increases the size of air sacs

  • Too much air being trapped in the lungs, causing barrel-chest 

As COPD develops, inefficient exhalation, along with the constriction and inflammation of airways, significantly impedes gaseous exchange in the lungs and the body. COPD is a permanent and progressive condition. Early identification of the symptoms listed below helps with disease management.

  • Fatigue

  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)

  • Decline in exercise endurance and tolerance
  • Asthma-like symptoms (wheeze, coughs, breathing difficulties)

When experiencing these symptoms, it is advisable to consult a doctor promptly and undergo medical check ups for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment planning.

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Risk Factors

Understanding the causes of COPD can aid the implementation of preventive measures. Similar to other lung diseases, a range of risk factors, spanning from behavioral to environmental and genetic aspects, is closely linked to the development of COPD.

Behavioral factors: 

Smoking: Cigarette smokers make up for  the predominant group of COPD patients. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can induce inflammation along the respiratory pathway. Habitual smoking leads to long-term damage to the lungs, increasing the likelihood of developing COPD.

Environmental factors: 

Second-hand smoke: Similarly, passive smoking causes irritation while breathing that increases the susceptibility to COPD.

Air pollution: Prolonged exposure to abundant air pollutants from biomass fuels or burning coal, as well as haze, poses a higher risk of COPD as well.

Occupational exposure to particle pollution: Frequent inhalation of industrial dusts, fumes and chemical particles in the workplace enhance the chance of COPD.

Personal factors: 

Genetics: The inherited disorder  of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is known to contribute to the development of COPD, especially amongst the young.

Personal medical history: People who suffered from severe lung infection, asthma, prematurity and underdeveloped lungs are more susceptible to COPD development.

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Taking note of these risk factors, eliminating smoking habits and minimizing exposure to a polluted environment are direct measures to protect oneself from this debilitating condition. Regular clinical health screenings can further monitor one's health condition and vaccination can also reduce the risk of disease development. In case of being diagnosed with COPD, symptoms can be managed with medications and oxygen and pulmonary rehabilitation.