So how exactly does COPD cause symptoms including shortness of breath? So COPD starts by chronic exposure to nauseous particles into the lungs. These nauseous particles usually are cigarette smoke. They cause mucus hypersecretion, airway inflammation. This actually leads to the initial presenting symptoms of COPD, which include a chronic cough, phlegm production. Over time, as the symptoms further progress, and as further damage is done to the lungs, this causes airway obstruction, meaning it's harder for air to get out of the lung. It's harder for the patient to actually exhale out of the lung. Inhalation remains relatively stable, but the process of exhalation is much more difficult. This then leads to the effect of air trapping. Essentially, air remains into a lung. Lung volumes are further inflated and it becomes much more harder then, to subsequently inhale against an already hyperinflated or lung with trapped air inside of it. This then leads to the sensation of what patients have, including shortness of breath with any sort of activity that requires more increased respiratory rates.
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