COPD is the 3rd leading cause of death in America. Around 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. In 2010, 134,676 American men and women died due to the disease. It is estimated that up to 24 million Americans have COPD and don’t even know it. COPD deaths are now higher in women than they are in men.
What is COPD?
COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD is the umbrella term used to describe the combination of lung diseases. The most common lung diseases that make up COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD makes breathing difficult. Airways become inflamed and thickened which makes it hard for air to flow in and out of the lungs. COPD destroys tissue in the lung where oxygen is exchanged. COPD is a slow developing disease. It is also a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time.
- Chronic Bronchitis: Chronic bronchitis is when inflammation found in airways causes swelling and obstruction. It becomes hard for air to flow in and out of the lungs. A person is diagnosed with chronic bronchitis if they are coughing and producing mucus for several months a year, for two years in a row.
- Emphysema: Emphysema is when air sacs and small airways in the lungs become damaged.
What are the Symptoms of COPD?
The most common symptoms for COPD are chronic coughing, coughing that produces mucus, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include fatigue and chest tightness. It is important to understand these early warning signs. People may not even realize they have COPD because symptoms, such as shortness of breath, will often be blamed as an effect of old age.
What Causes COPD?
The number one cause of COPD is smoking. 80% of COPD deaths are caused from smoking. Other causes include second hand smoke, air pollutants, dust, and fumes from chemicals. Genetics may also play a role in COPD. People who have never smoked or been exposed to other causes of the disease have been diagnosed with the disease.
How are you Diagnosed with COPD?
Typically, COPD is diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease because people are not aware of the early warning signs. Most diagnoses take place in people 40 years or older. In order to be diagnosed with COPD, a person is tested through spirometry. It is a simple test where one blows air into a mouthpiece. The machine connected to the mouthpiece measures how much air was blown out. It also measures how fast the air is blown out. Additional options for diagnosis include chest x-rays and blood tests.
Is there a Cure for COPD?
Unfortunately, there is not a cure for COPD. The disease is progressive and will get worse over time. As the disease gets worse, common activities such as cleaning, walking up the stairs, and cooking will become difficult. Although there is no cure, there are lifestyle changes a person can make to manage and slow down the progress of the disease.
How Can I Slow the Progress of COPD?
The best way to slow the progress of COPD is to quit smoking. People with COPD need to get regular exercise and maintain a healthy diet. Medications and oxygen supplements can help make breathing easier and improve quality of life. Treatments for those with COPD vary depending on the person. Talk to your health care provider about treatment options.
How Can I prevent COPD?
- Stop smoking
- Do not start smoking
- Avoid second-hand smoke
- Avoid air pollution
- Avoid occupational exposures, such as dust and chemical fumes
- Know your family history
How Do I Cope with COPD?
Coping with COPD is difficult both physically and emotionally. There will be changes made in everyday life. Normal activities such as changing clothes, standing, and walking may become difficult. This is not only physically difficult, but it is also emotionally difficult. Having trouble breathing can also cause stress and anxiety. It is important to get emotional support through support groups, counselors, or palliative care. Talk with your doctor about any questions you have and possible treatment options.
COPD is a life-threatening disease that should not be taken lightly. Early warning signs of the disease should be taken seriously. Talk to your health care provider about getting tested for COPD if you think you are at risk. Those diagnosed with COPD can get help with UnityPoint At Home COPD Management services.
Help spread awareness and educate others about this deadly disease to help saves lives!