Risk factors

The risk factors for COPD include :

  • Cigarette smoking – It has been estimated that about 80% of smokers carry the risk of developing COPD. Most patients have at least a 20 pack year smoking history, i.e. they have smoked about 20 cigarettes (1 pack) a day for more than 10 years. Risk of developing the disease as well as the complications there after, increases with the number and duration of cigarettes smoked.
  • Air pollution
    • This factor may also play a small role in the development of COPD.
  • Long standing bronchial asthma
    • Uncontrolled bronchial asthma of long standing duration may also lead to development of COPD as a complication.
  • Infections
    • Children having recurrent viral and bacterial infections also carry a risk for developing COPD in later years of life.
  • Occupation – the following occupations carry a high risk

o    Individuals working in coal, silica, asbestos mining.

o    Cement factories

o    Cotton industries

o    Farmers with hypersensitive lungs.

The risk is increased many fold if the individual is a concurrent smoker also.

  •  Genetic
    • Due to a genetic defect, an important enzyme : a1– antitrypsin is either not produced or produced in small amounts (a1 – Antitrypsin deficiency), which predisposes the individual to develop emphysema.
  • Growth and Nutrition

Low Birth Weight and poor development during the first year of life is known to predispose to COPD.

Diet low in Vitamin C and excessive alcohol intake are also known to impair ventilatory function and therefore predispose to COPD.