Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition in which the lungs’ airways become inflamed and narrowed and the lungs’ air sacs become damaged. COPD includes both chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the airways) and emphysema (destruction of the air sacs).

Smoking cigarettes is the most common cause.

Damage to the lungs makes it harder to breathe. When the damage is severe, it may also become difficult to get enough oxygen into the blood and to get rid of excess carbon dioxide. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, coughing, spitting up phlegm, wheezing and tiredness. Unfortunately, the symptoms of COPD cannot be completely eliminated with treatment and the condition usually worsens over time.

A new study has looked at the respiratory health of smokers over the age of 40, comparing HIV-positive people and HIV-negative people. It found that those living with HIV were more likely to have airway obstruction, a sign of poor respiratory health. They may also be more likely to have COPD, although further tests would be needed for a diagnosis.

People with HIV, especially those who’ve previously had low CD4 counts, are more likely to have a history of serious lung disease. This can make other respiratory problems more likely later on. But even when the researchers excluded HIV-positive people who’d previously had tuberculosis or pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) from their analysis, rates were still higher in those with HIV. This suggests that previous lung disease is not the only explanation for these high rates.

The study is another reminder of the damage smoking does to the health of people living with HIV. It seems to be even more harmful than for HIV-negative smokers.

For more information, read NAM’s factsheet ‘Smoking’.

You can read the full article here.