An Introduction To Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
If you have been recently diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) this article is for you. Understanding the basics of COPD is a great way to arm yourself with information is important. In this article, we will cover an overview of COPD, its common symptoms, and how to manage it.
Overview of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is an umbrella term used to describe two types of respiratory illnesses. These are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. This means that if someone has COPD, they likely have one or both of these conditions. When both conditions are present, it is “severe” COPD. Other forms include mild COPD (if only one condition is present). Moderate-severe COPD (which includes some airway obstruction plus moderate symptom severity). And lastly very severe COPD (which includes severe airway obstruction plus significant symptom severity).
Who Is at Risk for Documented Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
COPD is caused by long-term exposure to pollutants such as cigarette smoke, industrial emissions, or hazardous chemicals. People who smoke cigarettes or tobacco products are at the highest risk. As well as those exposed to hazardous occupational environments such as metal processing plants or any other environment with air pollution. Even secondhand smoke can increase an individual’s chances of developing COPD.
What Are the Two Types Of COPD?
There are two types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema occurs when the air sacs in the lungs become stretched out and thinned so that oxygen cannot pass through them properly. This type of COPD can make breathing difficult even when at rest. Chronic bronchitis involves swelling in the airways incurred by continued irritation resulting from smoking. Also secondary chemicals like wood dust or fumes from vehicles. This makes it especially difficult for a person suffering from this condition to breathe during physical activities like exercise.
How Can I Manage My Symptoms Of COPD?
Depending on your particular case of COPD, there are several ways for you to manage your symptoms. They may range from lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation or abstaining from being around sources of air pollution. This can be busy roadsides or construction sites, medications designed specifically for treating respiratory diseases. Such as inhalers with beta-agonists used to open the airways. Using oxygen therapy depends on the severity of your illness.
Causes And Risk Factors of COPD
Smoking cigarettes is one of the most common causes of COPD, which can affect a person’s ability to function at their peak over time. Smoking any kind of tobacco product, including smoking cigars, pipes, or marijuana poses an increased risk of developing COPD as well.
Secondhand smoke also contributes to the development of COPD.
Occupational exposure to certain lung-damaging chemicals used in certain professions—such as industrial production —can also contribute to COPD development. These chemicals may include asbestos fibers, silica dust, and chemical fumes from welding activities.
Exposure to environmental pollution has been linked with the development of COPD, too.
Studies have also suggested that genetics might play a role in determining who develops COPD. People born with inherited genetic traits (like defective elastin proteins or abnormal stem cells) may be more likely to develop COPD than those without these genetic attributes. Additionally, having a family history of chronic respiratory disorders (like asthma) increases your risk for COPD even if you don’t have either inherited gene abnormality related to COPD susceptibility yourself. These findings suggest that there might be more than one way for someone to develop this complex disorder.
The COPD Diagnosis and Tests
- Spirometry Test: Spirometry is a test used to assess how well your lungs are functioning. It measures the amount of air you can inhale and exhale, as well as the speed at which you can do it. The results of this test will tell your doctor if you have COPD or any other lung disorder for that matter.
- Chest X-Ray: A chest x-ray allows your healthcare provider to see what is happening inside your lungs, including signs of infection such as pneumonia or emphysema, which is one of the most common forms of COPD.
- Blood Tests: Blood tests may also be done to diagnose COPD by checking for certain markers in your blood that would indicate a problem with your lungs. Specifically, they may look for certain proteins produced when lungs are impaired due to COPD and other respiratory diseases, like Chronic Bronchitis or Asthma and Emphysema
- CT Scan Imaging Tests: A CT scan produces high-resolution images of your chest area which can be studied by your healthcare provider in detail to check for any blockages or other signs indicative of COPD such as enlarged arteries, thickening of the bronchial walls or fluid in the lungs
- Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT): PFTs measure how well oxygen moves from outside air into your bloodstream by breathing into a device called a spirometer. This helps determine if you are experiencing restricted airflow due to COPD which would be indicative of having the disease
Common Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Here is a list of symptoms that may indicate COPD.
- Shortness of breath: This includes feeling like you cannot catch your breath after exercise. Or difficulty breathing when you are in cold environments or exerting yourself through physical activities.
- Wheezing: A high-pitched whistling sound during exhalation.
- Tightness in the chest: This could be feelings of heaviness or soreness in your chest when you take a deep breath.
- Persistent cough with phlegm: Coughing up excess mucus can be an indication of COPD. Often caused by emphysema or chronic bronchitis. The color and consistency of the mucus may indicate which type of COPD you have.
- Fatigue: Extreme fatigue may occur due to physical activity or energy expended just to breathe normally throughout the day. You may experience exhaustion if you are not able to obtain sufficient amounts of oxygen in your lungs.
- Respiratory infections: If your COPD progresses to an advanced stage, you might find yourself dealing with respiratory infections on a more frequent basis than before. This may be due to weakened immune system functioning from lack of oxygen intake into your lungs.
- Swelling in feet, ankles, and legs: Your body might have difficulty circulating blood back up from the lower extremities due to obstruction blockages within your lungs. This causes fluid retention in areas such as the feet, ankles, and legs. A symptom often referred to as edema.
- Bluish tinge/color changes around nail beds/lips: When oxygen levels plummet while breathing becomes more labored over time due to COPD, the skin takes on a bluish hue along with nail bed colors becoming dusky gray or blue.
Knowing these signs and symptoms will help provide insight into what treatments may help relieve them most effectively.
Treatment Options For Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
- Medication: Medication should always be your first line of defense when it comes to treating COPD. Your doctor will work with you to determine which type is best for your particular case.
- Inhalers: Inhalers deliver medication directly into your lungs, allowing for a more concentrated effect of the medicine than traditional pills or capsules. They also help make sure that you take the right amount of medication each time — something that can be difficult when taking pills or capsules by mouth.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehabilitation (or “pulm rehab”) is an important part of managing COPD because it covers lifestyle changes as well as medical treatments. In-person sessions involve personalized exercise regimens designed specifically around your body’s functionality, nutrition changes, advice on how best to use inhalers, counseling, and care tips for adapting to life with COPD. You can also find many online pulmonary rehabilitation programs available nowadays that provide similar support without needing to leave home!
- Oxygen Therapy: In cases where the air is hard to get into your lungs due to narrow airways or other factors related to COPD, healthcare providers may suggest oxygen therapy as a way to improve breathlessness and the ability to perform daily tasks using supplemental oxygen delivery systems such as tubes connected to tanks filled with pressurized oxygen or continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks worn over the nose during sleep.
- Surgery: Surgery can sometimes be used as an option for treating more advanced forms of COPD if medications fail or don’t respond adequately enough alone. This might involve inserting stents into narrowed parts of bronchial tubes which allow wider airflow pathways from outside sources like hospital-supplied oxygen sources as well as reducing scarring from several past exacerbations over multiple years since their onset. Most notably surgery may even be able to include procedures like lung volume reduction surgeries (LVRS), where portions out due damage are surgically removed sacrificing some but allowing overall better function remaining segments take up newly opened space rather than collapsed ones nearby them before it would be harder usually impossible anyway!
- Respiratory Infections: People with COPD are at an increased risk for contracting respiratory infections, as their weakened immune system makes them more prone to getting sick. Common types of infections caused by a compromised respiratory system due to COPD include bacterial pneumonia, flu, and bronchitis. Additionally, individuals may also experience frequent exacerbation – times when the disease flares up and becomes particularly difficult to manage – due to respiratory infection.
- Heart Issues: Studies have shown that individuals with COPD may be at a higher risk of developing heart problems as well. The strain of holding one’s breath while trying to breathe could put extra stress on the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body efficiently. This can lead to conditions such as coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure. Symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath – all of which are common among those living with COPD.
- Depression: People living with chronic illnesses such as COPD are at an increased risk of depression due to feelings of sadness. Additionally, depression may flare up when tiredness sets in from struggling daily.
- Sleep Issues: Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which individuals experience pauses in breathing during sleep due to narrow airways triggering excessive snoring (known as “obstructive sleep apnea”).
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease As A Daily Reality
Living with COPD can be a difficult and frustrating experience. With proper management, however, minimizing and even reversing the effect of COPD on a person’s life is possible. Here are some tips for living with COPD and feeling your best:
- Take Your Medication as Prescribed: Take all your prescribed medications, including rescue inhalers — those used for quick relief during an acute attack or flare-up — when needed. Rashly taking more medication or stopping them prematurely may worsen your symptoms or do more harm than good. Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble following instructions or experiencing any side effects from taking medications.
- Stay Active: Although it may seem counterintuitive that exercise is beneficial for people with COPD. Anything light to moderate can help open airways and improve oxygen flow throughout the body.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking is one of the chief causative agents behind COPD. So quitting immediately can have a significant impact on minimizing the risk of complications stemming from smoking-related issues.
- Eat Healthily: Engaging in healthy eating habits helps optimize overall nutrition status. This leads to improved lung capacity through increased energy levels and healthier immune function.
- Maintain a Positive Mental Outlook: Don’t let feelings of despair prevent you from taking action despite difficulties related to COPD. Keep reminding yourself there are still many things that aren’t impeded by this condition.