What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

COPD

COPD (the shortened name for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is actually a collection of diseases in the lungs which include diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Those that suffer from COPD experience trouble breathing because of the way that their airways are narrowed.  This is also referred to as an airflow obstruction.

The symptoms of COPD include (but are not limited to): -Continual feelings of breathlessness when undergoing physical activity – a frequent and lingering cough, including the production of phlegm – regular and frequent infections in the chest and lungs.

Causes of COPD

The number one leading culprit of COPD is smoking.  The risks for developing COPD increase with the number of years that someone has smoked regularly and how much they smoke on average.  The act of smoking actually inflames the lungs and causes irritation.  This continual irritation results in scarring, which causes lingering and continuing damage.

If smoking is continued over a period of years, this scarring can become permanent and change the lungs forever.  The scars make the airway passages thicker, and these thickened airways produce mucus.  This type of continual damage and the resulting scarring makes the lungs a lot less elastic than they normally are, and it has a huge impact on the air sacs within the lungs themselves.  The walls of these sacs are incredibly delicate, and any damage can be incredibly profound.  Damage to these air sacs results in emphysema, and the smaller airway area results in breathlessness associated with COPD.  It can also be caused or triggered by dust particles, strong fumes, genetic deficiencies and pollution in the air, but these causes are far more rare than smoking.


Diagnosis of COPD

If you suspect that you may have COPD, it is essential that you get to a doctor as soon as possible for a correct diagnosis.  An early diagnosis can lead to effective and proactive treatment options which limit the continuing damage to the lungs and work to slow down the speed at which your lung functions are deteriorating.  If you’re exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, make sure to make an appointment with your regular doctor, and share your concerns.  Doctors usually diagnose COPD after running several specific tests, which may include a breathing capacity test.

Treatment Options

Unfortunately, it is impossible to restore your lungs to their original state prior to developing COPD, and the damage already present cannot be magically treated and reversed.  The only thing that COPD sufferers can hope for is to slow the process of deterioration down.  One of the best ways to slow the process is to quit smoking.  Unfortunately for habitual smokers, this is often easier said than done.

In addition to quitting smoking, your doctor can provide prescription medication that can help you to manage your symptoms effectively and reduce the appearance of symptoms.  These type of medications include:

  • Medications that assist with breathing.  These typically come in the form of an inhaler and go directly to the lungs.  Make sure to follow the instructions for your inhaler carefully.
  • Rehab for the Lungs can allow you to learn to handle your diagnosis and disease more effectively.  Trained professionals can give you valuable tools that allow you to breathe a lot easier, develop healthy eating habits and get regular exercise.
  • Regular oxygen treatment may be required as the disease progresses or worsens.  Since those with COPD are far more prone to infections of the lungs, it is vital that you receive regular flu vaccinations and stay up to date on your shots – particularly an injection that can help build up your immune system towards pneumonia.  If pneumonia does develop, having the vaccine can prevent you from getting as sick as you would have without them.
  • One of the most obvious treatment solutions is to avoid irritants that can further inflame or damage your lungs.  In particular, avoid continual exposure to air pollution, smoke or air that is dramatically overly cold or hot.  Regularly use and change air filters for the air conditioning systems in your home.
  • Make sure that you rest regularly throughout the day – especially in periods of high activity or stress
  • Improve the overall health of your body by getting moderate, regular exercise, and develop healthy eating habits.

 

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Living with the Disease

One of the best ways to live with a diagnosis of COPD is to improve your overall health in any way possible.  By incorporating a healthier diet, exercise and quitting smoking, living with COPD can become a lot more manageable.  There are techniques that can help you manage your disease effectively and look forward to a positive, healthy life.

What else is it best to consider?

Flare-ups: As COPD worsens, you could have flare-ups once your condition rapidly deteriorate and remain worse.  You should know what to do if this occurs. Your physician can recommend medications that may help. However, if the attack is sever, you need to go to the hospital.

Depression: Realizing that you’ve got a illness that becomes worse gradually can be difficult. It’s normal to feel depressed or hopeless at times. Having difficulty breathing also can cause you to feel quite anxious. If these emotions last, make sure to inform your physician.

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