Understand COPD Causes & Risk Factors

Remember long-term exposure to harmful chemicals, gases, and fumes is the cause of leading COPD. This exposure causes airway inflammation and obstruction. Also, risk factors increase your risk of developing COPD.

Cause of COPD

Smoking tobacco products is the leading cause of COPD. This doesn’t mean that everyone who smokes develops COPD. Nor does it mean that everyone with COPD smokes or has smoked. However, it means smoking can increase your likelihood of developing COPD. Age is another factor. COPD affects adults. It’s actually a condition that you develop later in life. Smoking, plus old age, increases the chances of developing COPD. 

Smoking and old age aren’t the only causes of COPD. Remember this. COPD is caused by chronic exposure to toxic gases, fumes, or chemicals. Chronic exposure to irritants, like air pollution, chemicals, fumes, and even secondhand smoke, can cause COPD. Finally, there are people who develop COPD who don’t smoke and aren’t older. They have a genetic condition. The condition increases their likelihood of developing conditions that affect their lungs.

Common COPD Risk Factors

Risk Factor #1: Environmental Irritants

Many things in your environment increase your risk of developing COPD. Namely, toxins. Toxins are found in fumes and gases. Tobacco smoke is a common environmental irritant. It contains toxic chemicals and fumes. And, it increases your risk of developing COPD. But, it’s not the only environmental irritant.

Air pollution is another irritant. Polluted air contains a combination of toxic gases and fumes. They irritate your airways and lungs. It doesn’t mean you’ll have COPD. But, it does put you at risk. People living in big cities are at risk. But, so are people who live near busy streets.

Risk Factor #2: Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco smoke makes you more susceptible to developing COPD. You don’t have to be an active smoker to be susceptible to COPD. People who smoked early in life can also be susceptible. Also, expectant mothers who smoke while pregnant are susceptible. But why? Smoking contributes to poor lung development, poor lung function, and can lead to the development of lung disease.

But, why does this happen? Smoke causes inflammation in your lungs. Smoking can cause mucus development. Confounding variables will also increase your risk of developing COPD.  Smoking causes inflammation and fibrosis of the small airways. This disease is what impairs lung function.

Risk Factor #3: Occupational Exposure

You know that exposure to dust, vapors, gases, and fumes makes you susceptible to developing COPD. Some occupations exposure you to these harmful chemicals. Most people think of janitorial workers. True, they’re frequently exposed to harmful chemicals. But, that isn’t the only occupation. In fact, many jobs expose you to harmful chemicals to some degree. Coal miners and industrial workers have exposure. So, their risk is high. On the other hand, sales workers, workers in administrative offices, and business workers have low exposure. Additionally, machine and system operators have a low-risk of exposure. Though risks are low, they’re still present.

The question is, how do chemicals cause COPD? Harmful chemicals, dust, vapors, and fumes irritate your airways. This contributes to airway inflammation. Exposure to one of these elements is harmful. What do you think happens when you have exposure to more than one of those elements? Exactly! This doesn’t mean everyone in these occupations develops COPD. Actually, only 15% of cases are caused by occupational exposure.

Risk Factor #4: Indoor Irritants

Another COPD risk factor is harmful chemicals. Harmful chemicals are also found in your home. This risk factor is less common in modernized cities. But it is a serious risk for under-developed cities and countries. Mostly, in homes that use wood-burning stoves. Or, homes with poor ventilation.

Risk Factor #5: Genetics

Some people are genetically predisposed to developing COPD. In other ways, they’re at risk. But, not because of smoking. Or exposure to fumes or irritants. They have a gene deficiency. So, for some of you, COPD is hereditary.

However, they aren’t the only ones with genetic predispositions. In fact, there are at least 13 different gene variances that increase their risks for lung conditions. Namely, poor lung function. This increases their risk for COPD. We should say, having one of these variances doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop COPD. But, it does mean there’s a slightly greater risk.