How the lungs work

How Does COPD affect the Lungs?

We’re passionate about giving comfort to those who have trouble breathing. Most of you may know that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a debilitating condition that can really restrict one’s quality of life. We recently put together a guide for those diagnosed with or wanting to learn all about COPD. This post is part three of our guide, for the complete guide subscribe to our newsletter and it will be emailed to you automatically. Otherwise you will be able to find a hard copy at your local COPD specialist clinic.


How Does COPD affect the Lungs?

In lungs affected by COPD, there can be several obstructions to the normal respiratory process of acquiring oxygen through breathing. Usually the obstruction occurs in the bronchioles or the alveoli, or both, and is the result of damage, inflammation or destruction of those parts of the lungs.


alveoli-copdDamaged or Destroyed Alveoli

One problem that can occur in COPD-affected lungs is that the walls of many alveoli are damaged or destroyed, creating fewer, larger air sacs. Less “wall space” means that less oxygen can pass into the bloodstream through the capillaries that normally line the alveoli walls. If the condition is obstructing the airways enough to cause a serious oxygen deficiency, the patient may require medical oxygen.



Damaged or Inflamed Bronchioles

17098Another problem that can occur is that the bronchioles lose their elasticity, become limp and lose their shape. This makes it difficult for COPD patients to inhale enough air to obtain normal levels of oxygen. In some cases, the walls of the bronchioles can become inflamed, narrowing the passages by which oxygen can be delivered to the capillaries. This restricted passageway to the alveoli slows the access of the breath, causing a smaller amount of air intake and thus a smaller amount of gas exchange in the alveoli.

Unfortunately, in many patients, more than one of these obstructions is occurring at the same time, significantly reducing oxygen intake. In addition to these symptoms, the airways of COPD-affected lungs often become clogged with excess mucus, further blocking the oxygen supply. For most COPD patients, pulmonary rehabilitation will be advised by a healthcare professional in order to aid the body’s natural “damage control” response to lung damage, which can slow down significantly in COPD patients. But for many patients, medical oxygen will still be prescribed to ensure healthy levels of oxygen are making their way through the lungs into the bloodstream to be delivered throughout the body.