What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?
COPD is a lung disease which causes shortness of breath. Patients with COPD have narrower and destroyed airways (tubes that transport air in the lungs). They usually experience chronic dyspnea and fatigue. COPD can be a serious health problem. It usually worsens over time. Hopefully, there are some treatment options that improve symptoms. You may have heard COPD called t”chronic bronchitis” or “emphysema” instead. These are the two forms of the disease.
What are the causes of COPD?
The most common cause of COPD is by far smoking. Other causes include inhalation of toxic fumes or gases and air pollution.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
Initially, one can be completely asymptomatic. Later, however, and as the disease progresses he can experience the following:
- Shortness of breath – breathlessness especially during physical activity
- Wheezing – a sound like whistling during breathing
- Cough with phlegm production
Furthermore, patients with COPD have an increased risk for:
- Respiratory infections, eg pneumonia
- Lung Cancer
- Cardiac Problems
Is there a test that helps with the diagnosis of COPD?
Yes. Your doctor will advise you to do “spirometry”. During spirometry, you take a deep breath and then you blow quickly and forcefully into a tube. A machine that is connected to the tube calculates the amount of air blown related to time. If spirometry results are abnormal, your doctor will give you a medication in the form of inhaled aerosol. After about 15-20 minutes, the spirometry is repeated. This will help your doctor to determine if you suffer from COPD or another respiratory disease, eg asthma. Patients with asthma usually in the second spirometry show normal results in contrast to patients with COPD in which results are abnormal.
What is the treatment of COPD?
First of all, STOP SMOKING! If you smoke, the most important intervention you can do is to stop smoking. No matter how much you smoke every day or how long you smoke, if you stop smoking, this will slow the progression of copd and help you feel better. It is also necessary to vaccinate against the flu virus annually and against pneumococcus at least once in your lifetime. Infections with these microorganisms can be very dangerous for your health, if you suffer from copd, too. Thus, it is very important to prevent them. There are 4 main therapeutic options for the treatment of COPD:
- Medicines. There are several drugs for copd treatment. Most patients use inhalers which help them by dilating their airways. Usually you need to take more than one kind of spray. As the disease progresses, some people need eventually oxygen at home.
- Oxygen. In the final stages of the disease, some people experience respiratory failure. Oxygen is necessary to keep them alive.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation. In this program, patients learn to improve their health status through various ways. They learn various breathing techniques, receive psychological support and participate in special physical exercises.
- Surgery. Rarely, people with very severe COPD may undergo surgery to remove the most destroyed parts of their lungs. This could improve their symptoms, but success in not always guaranteed.
For more information: http://www.goldcopd.org/