Four steps to COPD awareness
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD as it’s best known sounds very serious and it should, considering that it is the third leading cause of death in the US. This disease causes thickening of the airways from inflammation and destruction of the tissue of the lung where oxygen is exchanged. So, the flow of air in and out of the lungs is less than it should be. As the disease worsens, shortness of breath occurs more and more, thus making it more difficult to remain active.
What’s troubling about COPD is that in addition to the 11 million people we know have the disease, there might be up to 24 million who don’t realize they have it. Learning to recognize early warning signs is so important in helping to catch COPD before it becomes advanced. This is a disease that in many cases can be treated and prevented so early detection is vital to succesful treatment. (Source: American Lung Association)
What are the early warning signs?
• Chronic cough
• Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
• Frequent respiratory infections
• Producing a lot of mucus – phlegm or sputum
• Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
What makes someone susceptible?
• No surprise – smoking – it’s the major cause of COPD (responsible for 80-90% of all cases)
• Pollution in the air
• Irritating fumes and dusts to which one is persistently exposed
• The alpha-1 deficiency related emphysema – an inherited and very rare form of COPD
How do you prevent COPD?
• Again no surprise – quit smoking
• Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke
• Protect against chemicals, dusts and fumes at home and work
• Don’t wait until symptoms are severe before seeking help
How do you treat COPD?
COPD can present itself differently in different people so treatment options may also differ from person to person. It’s important to stay connected with your healthcare provider to learn about the best treatment for your COPD. Pulmonary rehab programs that combine education, exercise training, nutrition advice and counseling are most often prescribed to rebuild strength and ensure a more active lifestyle. Some COPD people may need to receive supplemental oxygen.
Palliative care can also provide a wealth of support to the COPD person throughout the lifetime of the disease. By focusing on physical and emotional symptoms, palliative care can improve quality of life and help COPD people manage their disease.
For more information on COPD, visit http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd.
For information on how NVNA and Hospice can help with COPD, please call 781.659.2342.