Some veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were exposed to hazards such as burn pits, sandstorms, and improvised explosive devices may now have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It’s only one of the many lung conditions that are now known more broadly as “War Lung Disease,” which also encompasses other conditions such as asthma and constrictive bronchiolitis linked to these two wars. COPD is the third leading cause of death globally.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a combination of chronic and progressive lung conditions including chronic bronchitis, small airway disease and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which usually causes a cough and more mucus. Emphysema occurs when the inner walls of the air sacs in the lungs are damaged or destroyed, which reduces the surface area of the lungs and results in less oxygen reaching the bloodstream. These conditions limit airflow and make it hard for the person to breathe and can prevent them from fully engaging in daily activities. Unfortunately, the airway obstruction is irreversible.
COPD results from prolonged exposure to lung irritants. Smoking is one of the main causes of COPD. More than 80% of COPD cases are caused by smoking. However, the disease has also been linked to exposure to airborne hazards in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA reports that COPD can be caused by inhaling particulates and noxious substances.
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, chest tightness, respiratory infections, and decreased energy. There are periods of time (called exacerbations) when the intensity of the symptoms might rise. People with COPD are more likely to catch colds, the flu, and pneumonia. COPD can also result in high blood pressure. In addition, the condition puts the person with it at a higher risk of heart disease and lung cancer.
If you think you might be affected by COPD and War Lung Disease, there’s plenty that you can do to learn about the conditions and get help before it progresses further. The Veteran Health Services Group has expertise on veteran health problems and serves as a health solutions resource for military personnel post-deployment. Contact us today at 833-218-2792 to get the information and assistance you need to address chronic obstructive pulmonary disease linked to your deployment.