COPD

 

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Help is Here for COPD

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by Farhan Rizvi 12 Oct 2015 21 6

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a condition of the lungs that makes it difficult for patients to breathe. Caused primarily by smoking for a long period of time, COPD is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Approximately 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and it is estimated that as many as 14 million additional people in the United States have undiagnosed COPD. As the third leading cause of death in the U.S., COPD is a serious condition that requires consistent treatment under the care of a physician.

While there is no cure for COPD, this condition can be managed so that symptoms are

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reduced. There are many important questions that patients need to ask when consulting their physicians regarding COPD treatment options.

Question: What factors can trigger my COPD?

There are many factors that can trigger COPD exacerbations, which are the episodes during which patients have a hard time breathing. While triggers tend to be personal in nature, there are several that are common to patients with COPD.

– Smoking is the most common trigger, whether first-hand or second-hand, and regardless of type. Those exposed to pipe, marijuana, or tobacco smoke are susceptible to COPD events.

– Asthma increases a patient’s risk of exacerbating COPD.

– Exposure to chemicals, dusts and vapors, especially in the workplace.

– Age, COPD develops slowly, and patients are usually between 35 and 40 years of age when COPD symptoms appear.

In some cases, genetic factors, such as an alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, can make patients more susceptible to developing COPD.

Question: How is COPD Treated?

Physicians and patients need to work together closely in order to treat COPD. Long-term treatment plans should have four objectives:

– Slow down the disease

– Limit the symptoms

– Increase overall health

– Prevent flare-ups

Patients can receive COPD treatment through training called Pulmonary Rehabilitation. These strategies include self-care strategies, nutrition education, regular exercise, and breathing therapy. Physicians may also prescribe a range of medications to help treat COPD symptoms.

Question: What Medications Treat COPD?

While there are no medications to cure COPD, some are used as part of overall treatment plans under the care of a physician to prevent exacerbations. A range of medications are used to treat COPD both in the short-term and long-term.

– Short-acting bronchodilators include ProAir HFA, Xopenex, and Atrovent.

– Long-acting bronchodilators include Spirit, Servant, Brogan, and Arcapta.

– Inhaled steroids like Flovent and Pulmicort prevent exacerbations by reducing inflammation of the airways.

– Oral steroids are used to treat those with moderate or severe exacerbations.

– Daliresp is a phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor that reduces airway inflammation and relaxes the airways to make breathing easier.

– Antibiotics are given to those who develop infections that include influenza, pneumonia, and acute bronchitis.

– Oxygen therapy is provided for those who don’t have enough oxygen in their blood.

Question: What can I do to relieve COPD symptoms at home?

There are many ways that patients can improve their quality of life through reducing the effects of COPD. These simple changes can include:

– Smoking cessation. The first step in any COPD treatment plan is to stop smoking.

– Relaxation techniques to help during shortness of breath.

– Regular exercise, which can strengthen respiratory muscles.

– Adopt a healthy diet to lose extra weight and build strength.

– Avoid air pollution another triggers to COPD.

– Visit the doctor regularly to adjust a COPD treatment plan.

Question: What complications arise from COPD?

While the most obvious complications from COPD include short-term and long-term lung damage, there are additional health problems that can arise from this condition.

– Heart problems, such as heart attack and heart disease.

– Respiratory infections, including the common cold, flu, and pneumonia.

– High blood pressure, especially in the arteries that deliver blood to the lungs.

– Depression resulting from dealing with this serious illness.

– Osteoporosis, which is a thinning of the bones, making them more brittle.

– Sleep problems, resulting from a decrease of oxygen to the lungs.

Patients who suffer with these complications need to consult their physicians as soon as possible to receive treatment and relief

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a disease that affects your lungs and your ability to breathe. The most common symptoms including

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coughing, wheezing, difficult breathing, and phlegm or sputum production in the lungs.

 

COPD is mostly caused by smoking, though it is also caused by exposure to other irritants or particles in the air you breathe. Being diagnosed with COPD puts you at an increased risk of developing other life-threatening conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease.

 

COPD is chronic, meaning it doesn’t appear only once and then go away. Instead, episodes may occur and reoccur. It is also progressive disease. In the majority of patients, COPD gets worse over time.
In the United States, a staggering 12 million people have been diagnosed with COPD. But thousands more may have the disease without even knowing it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lists COPD as one of the top five leading causes of death in the United States.

 

How Your Lungs Work

To understand how COPD affects your lungs, you need to know how your lungs work. When you breathe in air, it passes through your windpipe and fills your bronchial tubes, located in your lungs. These tubes are like the branches of tree, splitting off into smaller and smaller tubes. The smallest tubes are called bronchioles, and at the end of them are air sacs, called alveoli. When you inhale, they fill up with air much in the same way that a balloon does. When you exhale, they deflate.

 

The walls of the air sacs are criss-crossed with small blood vessels which absorb oxygen from the air you breathe. This oxygen is carried through your blood to be used throughout your body. While oxygen is absorbed, carbon dioxide, a waste product, is passed out of the air sacs. You breathe out carbon dioxide when you exhale.

 

What Happens When You Have COPD?

COPD causes changes in the lungs that make it difficult to breathe. Your air sacs lose their elasticity, which means that it’s more difficult for them to grow and shrink along with your breathing. The walls of the air sacs may also become weak. Similarly, the walls of your airways, including your windpipe, may become swollen and blocked with excess mucus or phlegm.

 

All of these changes make it more difficult to breathe. When you have a hard time breathing, your cells won’t get all of the oxygen they need to give you energy. Physical exercise may become impossible, and in later stages of the disease, even speaking can leave you out of breath.

 

Lung damage caused by COPD is not reversible, and there is no cure for those diagnosed with the disease. With that said, there are a wide variety of lifestyle changes and treatment options that can improve quality of life for people suffering from COPD. Addressing symptoms of COPD can slow the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of developing an associated condition.

 

Forms of COPD

COPD generally comes in two forms.

  • Emphysema. Emphysema is a disease that results in the destruction of the air sacs, or alveoli, of the lungs.
  • Chronic bronchitis. Bronchitis is a condition that causes the airways to become inflamed. This inflammation makes it difficult for air to get through to the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is also associated with coughing. In order to be chronic, symptoms of bronchitis must appear most days of the week for at least three consecutive months.

 

Together, these conditions contribute to difficulty absorbing oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide.

 

Symptoms of COPD

It’s difficult to identify COPD, as symptoms may not appear until significant damage has been done to the lungs. Signs and symptoms of COPD include:

  • Feeling short of breath, especially when engaging in physical activity
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling the need to clear your throat of excess phlegm and/or mucus, especially first thing in the morning
  • A cough that never goes away and produces white, clear, yellow, or green-coloured mucus
  • Respiratory infections
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Unexplained weight loss

 

In most cases of COPD, exacerbations are periods or episodes when symptoms become worse than usual. These exacerbations may carry on for several days at a time and then go away.

 

Getting a COPD Diagnosis

The best way to know if you are suffering from COPD is to make an appointment with your doctor. Spirometry is a special type of test which assesses lung function. It involves exhaling as hard as you can into a small machine that measures the volume of air your lungs can hold. Your doctor can tell you the results right away.

 

Your doctor may also use a stethoscope to listen to your lungs. While this can sometimes indicate COPD, other times, the lungs sound normal even when COPD is present.

Scans can also be helpful in diagnosing COPD. A CT scan is one of the best ways to show COPD, while x-rays only sometimes indicate the presence of COPD.

 

Treatment

While there is no known cure for COPD, treatment can help to significantly lessen symptoms. It can also help slow down the progression of the disease over time.

 

Medication is usually prescribed to treat COPD. Most of the time, your doctor will prescribe an inhaler with medication to help open your airways. Steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs can help to reduce the inflammation in your airways, making it easier to breathe. In some cases, long-term antibiotics are also prescribed to target bacteria. These drugs are taken daily.

 

You might also require medication to take during an exacerbation or flare-up. Steroids, which can be taken orally or injected, can help to open your lungs during moments when symptoms of your COPD make it difficult to breathe.

 

Oxygen therapy is another type of treatment that can help you to get all the oxygen you need. It is mostly prescribed during the later stages of the disease.

If you smoke, quitting is crucial to stopping the damage to your lungs. You should speak to a health professional regarding the resources available to help you quit smoking.

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of lung diseases that inhibit airflow to the lungs and make breathing difficult. The two most common conditions of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and people with COPD can have both conditions at the same time. In chronic bronchitis, the linings of the bronchial tubes become inflamed. Emphysema happens when the alveoli in the small air passages in the lungs are destroyed. Both of

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these conditions cause irreversible damage to the lungs, but getting treatment early on can control symptoms and prevent further damage from occurring.

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Millions of people have COPD and there are many more that have not been properly diagnosed yet. COPD develops slowly and will eventually limit how a person can perform their most basic activities. There is no known cure as of yet and doctors are not sure how to repair the damage that it causes to the airways and lungs. There are many treatment options available that will help with feeling better, staying active, and even slowing the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, many people who have COPD don’t seek help until their symptoms become more severe. Catching COPD early on offers the best chance at successful treatment, so if you or someone you love experiences any of the early signs or symptoms of COPD, talk to a doctor right away. Since symptoms don’t appear until lung damage has already occurred, treatment should begin immediately upon diagnosis of COPD.

The primary symptom of COPD is a chronic cough, defined as a cough that occurs for at least three months per year for two consecutive years. There are other symptoms that may indicate COPD, as well, including wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath (especially during physical activity), excess mucus in the lungs (especially in the morning), a blue tint to fingernail beds or lips, lack of energy, unexplained weight loss and frequent respiratory infections. COPD, when untreated, can result in several complications, such as respiratory infections, colds, flu, pneumonia, higher risk for lung cancer, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure. It is imperative that the individual with COPD have all the tests their doctor orders such as a pulmonary function tests, chest x-rays, CAT scans and arterial blood gases. This is the only way the doctor is able to make a definite diagnosis so treatment can begin.

Although there is no cure for COPD, numerous treatment options are available to help patients live longer, more comfortable lives. When COPD is detected during the earlier stages of the disease, medical treatments and healthy lifestyle changes can often prevent the significant loss of lung function for several years. That said, of the 24 million Americans believed to have COPD, only half have discussed their symptoms with a doctor. The remaining people are putting themselves at greater risk by not receiving immediate treatment. Early COPD treatment is usually simple and highly effective, consisting of bronchodilators and other medications prescribed by your doctor.

The most important step of COPD treatment is to quit smoking. People who smoke cigarettes are more at risk of COPD than any other demographic, especially after smoking heavily for a number of years. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of developing the disease while also protecting you from life-threatening episodes of COPD exacerbation. Unfortunately, the addictive qualities of cigarettes make this a very hard habit to break. Talk to your doctor if you need assistance with quitting smoking for good.

People who smoke are also much more likely to develop COPD than people who don’t. In addition, people who have been diagnosed with asthma also face a greater risk, as do people who are regularly exposed to airborne dusts and fumes through the course of their occupation. Family history is also believed to play a minor role in the development of COPD, although the risks associated with genetics pale in comparison to the risks associated with smoking. People who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke also face higher risks about someday developing COPD.

One of the best things you can do when dealing with COPD is educate yourself about your condition, so you clearly understand what COPD is, how it might affect you, and what your treatment options are. Following your prescribed treatment plan carefully is also necessary in successfully treating your symptoms and preventing further lung damage. Oftentimes, this means asking questions, when necessary, to make sure you fully understand your treatment plan. Think of your physician as a teammate in battling the symptoms of COPD, and keep the lines of communication with your doctor open.

Remember, the better you take care of yourself, the easier treating COPD symptoms will be. If you’re a smoker, quit smoking now. Begin an exercise regimen recommended by your doctor to help improve lung function, if possible, and make sure to eat a healthy diet and cut down on alcohol. You should also limit your exposure to airway irritants, such as second-hand smoke, air pollution and exposure to harsh chemicals or dust, as these can exacerbate COPD symptoms.

Those whom the doctor has diagnosed with having COPD may feel that their life is soon to end. This is a myth and far from the truth. COPD is not the end of life and in many cases can be treated and kept at bay. COPD does not just show up one day, but rather develops slowly over many years. Eventually, the COPD patient complains of increased difficulty breathing during physical activity and even while resting. As always, if your symptoms get worse or change, contact your doctor right away.

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Learning to recognize the signs of COPD exacerbation and other complications is crucial to successful treatment.

There are several websites and other resources available to those who have COPD or have a loved one with the condition. COPDFoundation.org is an excellent resource for anyone seeking information about symptoms and treatment of COPD, as well as current research and new treatment options that may soon be available. There, you will also find a complete list of additional resources, including support groups and educational tools.

Lung.org, an American Lung Association website, is another excellent resource for learning about COPD, including information geared toward patients and caregivers, as well as physicians and nurses. Lung.org also has resources that can show you where you might get help paying for your COPD treatment and care.

Keep in mind that, while the Web has a multitude of resources available, your best resource will always be your physician. If you have questions or concerns related to your particular symptoms, make sure to discuss them with your doctor right away.

Ron Glazier
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Ron Glazier Is it recommended that people living at high altitudes move to a lower altitude? I have read a lot about how living at or near sea level is very helpful for some.

Ron’s Question:

“Is it recommended that people living at high altitudes move to a lower altitude? I have read a lot about how living at or near sea level is very helpful for some.”

For those dealing with COPD, every breath can be difficult. People with COPD can be at risk for some serious complications that can not only put their health in jeopardy, but can also be fatal. Here are a few of those complications, along with some tips for preventing them.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can have some serious complications, including heart failure and pneumonia.
healthline.com

Once your physician has diagnosed you, you may have several questions about the progression of the disease, as well as the treatments they recommend. Here are a few questions you should ask your doctor before beginning a treatment program.

Here are a few questions you should discuss with your physician or pulmonologist before beginning your COPD treatment plan.
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Here’s why you’re getting breathless.

COPD damages your lungs and prevents them from working as they are designed. Learn exactly how COPD affects your lungs and how you can combat breathlessness.
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