Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a lung disease also known as the health conditions emphsema and chronic bronchitis. According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the US. Most of COPD occurrences can be prevented with awareness of risk factors that cause COPD and making changes in one’s health habits to reduce the risk of developing COPD.
Key risks for COPD include:
exposure to 2nd hand smoke, and
exposure to harmful chemicals/irritants/fumes.
Symptoms of COPD include:
Frequent ongoing cough,
regularly coughing up plegm,
difficulty taking a breath or deep breath,
shortness of breath when performing activities of daily living like dressing, showering and walking.
These symptoms are all related to constricted and/or inflamed airways that make exhaling difficult which leads to impaired exchanges of oxygen and carbon dioxide, the ‘normal’ mechanism of breathing which occurs in the lungs. Treatment of COPD is focused on reducing inflammation, opening airways, improving oxygenation, managing symptoms and preventing complications like infection and pneumonia.
Treatment may include:
preventive measures: keeping vaccines up to date, quitting smoking and removing irritants from your environment
medications to prevent or manage symptoms
- bronchodilators – (to open airways) in the form of inhalers or nebulizers
- antiinflammatories – (to reduce inflammation) inhalers or pill form
- antibiotics – if infection is suspected or present
pulmonary therapy and exercise to enhance physical wellness and minimize complications
good nutrition – eating foods with high nutrional value that don’t create symptoms
oxygen – during exacerbations of symptoms (like acute illness, influenza…) or later in the disease when breathing is more difficult and blood oxygen levels drop too low.
One’s risk for COPD can be reduced by becoming knowledgeable, making health habit changes and treating symptoms chronic lung problems promptly.