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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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
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.
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.
“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.
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