COPD is the acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder.
It is a condition usually caused by smoking but can also be exacerbated by exposure to pollution or other environmental irritants. Very rarely it can be caused by a genetic disorder (alpha 1-deficiency) as well. COPD is also often referred to as emphysema, which is the inability to effectively “capture” oxygen into the blood at the capillary level.
According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third highest cause of death in the United States with 11 million cases annually, with a higher percentage of female patients. (ALA, 2015)
One of the first symptoms of COPD is an extreme loss of breath whilst performing normal daily physical activity. Shortness of breath of this type is not normal. Other indicators of COPD include: persistent or frequent respiratory infections, excessive phlegm, coughing with thick mucous, blue lips and fingernails (cyanosis), chest tightness, wheezing or a lack of energy. (Mayo Clinic/2015). Some of these symptoms “cross” with asthma and other conditions so please see your doctor to get properly diagnosed. If you are determined to have COPD the doctor will “stage” the disease, that is, determine the severity of your COPD. This is necessary for determining your prescriptive course of treatment.
There is currently no cure for COPD.
However, there are ways to help prevent it or stop it from worsening:
If you smoke. STOP. Smoking has not only been linked to COPD but lung, mouth, throat, stomach, bladder and other cancers.
Keep your distance from secondhand smoke and smoke from fireplaces.
Try to limit exposure from environmental pollutants.
Get you annual flu immunization (consult your physician)
Get you pneumonia immunization (consult your physician)
Avoid breathing extremely cold air, wear a loose scarf around your nose and mouth.
Remember, all COPD cases are different so it is important to be properly evaluated. Your doctor may advise treatment including:
Pulmonary Rehabilitation – The patient will enter a program that incorporates, lung exercises, dietary and lifestyle changes along with medicines to help with breathing like Symbicort ® or Advair ®.
External Oxygen – In many cases patients who suffer from COPD will often need to carry a portable oxygen supply and wear a nasal cannula to facilitate breathing.
Holistic Therapy – Acupuncture, Yoga or Meditation, although these activities do not cure COPD , they may help alleviate the stress associated with the condition and help the patient lead a better quality of life.
Surgery – Depending on the severity of the condition lung surgery or even a lung transplant may become necessary.
Call 1-800 LUNG-USA for information from the American Lung Association about any questions you have regarding COPD, or if you need assistance locating a healthcare provider.
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Remember to take care of yourself and…