Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) is a group of diseases and conditions that produces an inflammatory response in the lungs. The inflammation occurs along the lining of bronchial tubes that act as a passageway for air to reach the lungs. This results in shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. Although, this disease can cause an irreversible damage to the airways but with appropriate treatment and prevention strategies, further damage to the lungs can be minimized.
COPD can be caused by several reasons such as -
Smoking: It is the most common cause of COPD because long-term breathing of tobacco smoke destroys the lung tissue and irritates the airways. Read about 6 tips from an ex-smoker to stick to your no-smoking resolution.
Pollution: If you are exposed to chemical fumes, dust or air pollution and even, second-hand smoke for a long period of time, you may damage your lungs leading to COPD symptoms.
Weak immunity: Naturally if your immunity is low, you’ll be prone to recurring viral and bacterial infection of the respiratory system, increasing your chances of suffering from COPD. Here are 5 amazing tips to improve your immunity.
Lung diseases: If you suffered from serious lung infections during your childhood days, then you are likely to suffer from COPD.
The two most common COPD diseases are chronic bronchitis or emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis: It is clinically described as consistent cough with sputum or phlegm that lasts for over three months.
Emphysema: In this disease, the lung tissue is damaged over time and results in shortness of breath or wheezing.
The two forms of COPD aren’t mutually exclusive and can happen together.
Initially, COPD may report only mild or no symptoms. However as the disease progresses, you might experience several symptoms such as –
- Consistent or chronic cough (with phlegm)
- Shortness of breath (especially during exercise and moving)
- Tightness of chest
- Difficulty in breathing
- Weight loss
- Frequent lung infections
In some cases, you may experience sudden flare-ups of symptoms known as COPD exacerbation, which might be life-threatening.
If you show symptoms of COPD, your doctor will recommend following tests followed by physical examination and asking questions about your past history (clinical health, exposure to pollutants and whether you smoke). These include –
Spirometry: It is a simple test to check how efficient your lungs are functioning. This test requires you to breathe into a tube connected to a machine that measures the amount of air you can breathe in and the force with which you can blow it out.
Chest X-ray: It can diagnose lung disease (chronic bronchitis and respiratory problems) in the early stages and help in confirming the exact cause of the symptoms.
Arterial blood gas analysis: This test shows decreased oxygen concentration in blood thereby aiding in the detection of COPD. Read more about lung function tests.
Although there is no cure for COPD, getting treated for the condition slows down the progression of the disease and aids in relieving the symptoms. The treatment plan involves lifestyle changes, medications and vaccination. However in some cases, rehabilitation program alsohelps in the management of the disease.
Lifestyle changes: One of the most effective ways to prevent worsening of COPD is to quit smoking. Apart from this, there are few things that people suffering from COPD need to follow. These are –
- Regular exercising
- Eating a healthy and nutrient-rich diet
- Stay away from pollutants (and things that irritate your lungs)
Medicines: Depending upon the severity of the disease and the extent of inflammation, your doctor will recommend medications. These drugs can help you breathe easier, reduce flare-ups of symptoms and provide relief. The commonly prescribed medicines to treat COPD include bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, beta-agonists and anticholinergics.
Vaccination: People suffering from COPD are at an increased risk of getting lung infections and hence, vaccination plays a key role in prevention of various health complications associated with COPD. In case you are suffering from COPD, get a shot of flu vaccine and pneumonia.
Rehabilitation program: A lung rehabilitation program teaches you about how to live well with COPD, exercise, breathe easier and eat well along with providing support and counselling.
People with COPD have to live with the condition for the rest of their life. However, you can prevent the condition from worsening by leading a healthy life, taking medications as recommended by your doctor and getting yourself checked by the doctor from time to time.