This is a collaborative post.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a chronic and long-term inflammatory lung illness. Both emphysema and chronic bronchitis contribute to it.
Emphysema is an illness where the alveoli (air sacs) at the end of bronchioles (smallest air passages) of the lungs are damaged. It is the result of bad exposure to particulate matter and other irritating gases like cigarette smoke.
Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation and swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes. Bronchial tubes carry air to and from the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs. It can be distinguished by mucus/sputum production and coughing every day. This can last to three months a year for two successive years.
COPD causes restricted airflow from the lungs that make it difficult to breathe. It is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases like the smoke of the cigarette.
COPD symptoms are:
- Persistent and continuous cough
- Coughing up a lot of phlegm
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Mucus/sputum production
- Blue fingernails or lips
- Fatigue, lack of energy, or extreme tiredness
- Common and repeated colds
- Losing weight unintentionally
- Swollen ankles, feet, or legs
- Tightness of chest
- Clearing your throat a lot
Unfortunately, COPD symptoms appear only when significant or advanced lung damage has happened. They usually aggravate over time, specifically when smoke exposure continues.
Exacerbations are the event that can be experienced by people with COPD. Their symptoms worsen and continue for several days.
You should call a doctor immediately if:
- You are feeling lightheaded or dizzy.
- The phlegm or gunk is green, yellow, or rust-coloured.
- You are coughing up more phlegm.
- You have a fever. It is over 101 F.
- You are out of breath that affects daily routine.
- You are coughing more than normal.
Call and consult your doctor right away. You may also call 911. You can go to the nearest emergency room if still out of breath even after taking prescribed medicines.
If you suspect you have COPD based on the signs and symptoms, consult your doctor. Discuss your symptoms. Your doctor will review your symptoms and will ask how long the symptoms get started. Also, they will ask for your family and medical history.
Types of Tests to Determine COPD
- Stethoscope helps listen for anything uncommon, like wheezing.
- Lung/pulmonary function tests measure the amount of air you breathe in and out. It is to determine if your lungs are providing adequate oxygen.
- Spirometry can detect if you have COPD.
- A chest X-ray can show emphysema. Emphysema is one of the main causes of COPD, aside from chronic bronchitis.
- C.T. scan helps detect emphysema and surgery that might be needed.
- Arterial blood gas analysis helps measure your lungs’ wellness in providing oxygen and discarding carbon dioxide.
- Laboratory tests will not help in determining COPD but may help to know the cause of your symptoms. It can also help to rule out other conditions or problems.
COPD is treatable but not curable.
Treatments available are:
- Smoking cessation is the most important step of all.
- Medications help to treat symptoms and complications. Example:
- Bronchodilators help relax the muscles around the airways.
- Inhaled corticosteroids help lessen airway swelling and prevent exacerbations. But, there are side effects.
- Use of a portable oxygen concentrator system
- Combination inhalers contain bronchodilators and inhaled steroids.
- Oral steroids can help prevent further worsening of the disease.
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors are new and approved type of medication for people with severe COPD. It helps lessen airway inflammation and relaxes your airways.
- Theophylline is a very inexpensive medicine that helps improve breathing. It can also prevent exacerbations.
- Antibiotics help treat acute or severe exacerbations.
People with COPD will also need effective therapy to manage and control symptoms. Also, it is necessary to lessen the risk of exacerbations and complications.
Therapies for lungs:
- Oxygen therapy is supplemental oxygen when there is not enough oxygen in your blood.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation program educates people with COPD about exercise training, nutrition counseling, advice, and suggestion.
You can also try the lifestyle and home remedies like controlling your breathing, clearing your airways, exercising regularly, eating healthy foods, avoiding smoke, and air pollution.
Exacerbations can be managed with the help of treatments, medications, and therapies.
However, surgery is also an option if medications are not enough.
- Lung volume reduction surgery
- Lung transplant
Don’t shrug any sign or symptom that you are experiencing.
Keeping yourself healthy is always the key. Visiting your doctor regularly will help maintain your wellness.