Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Learning to Manage COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a common lung condition that makes it hard to breathe and, more often than not, is linked to smoking. Other risk factors for COPD include exposure to environmental hazards such as fumes, dust and air pollution over a long period of time. It typically affects people over the age of 60.

The disease is usually a mixture of chronic bronchitis, which causes inflamed bronchial tubes and increased mucus, and emphysema, which prevents air sacs in the lungs from stretching as much as they should.

Common symptoms of COPD include:
  • Chronic cough
  • Mucus that comes up when coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
There is no cure for COPD, but many treatments exist for easing symptoms. First, if you’re a smoker, quit smoking. Kicking the habit sooner rather than later can help slow the progression of the disease. Medications for COPD treatment include inhalers, inhaled steroids to alleviate inflammation in the lungs and anti-inflammatory medications. Lung rehabilitation programs are also available to help individuals with COPD learn how to manage their disease and breathe a little easier. At some point during the course of the disease, patients may need to be put on oxygen on either a part-time or full-time basis.

Another thing for COPD patients to keep in mind is that their condition makes them more susceptible to developing lung infections, so they are encouraged to take preventive actions such as getting an annual flu and pneumococcal shot. Other precautionary measures include avoiding lung irritants like smoke and dust, using an air conditioner or air filter to ensure cleaner air at home and taking breaks throughout the day when necessary. Focusing on maintaining a healthy lifestyle by doing practical exercises and eating well also goes a long way to ensuring effective management of COPD.

If you are concerned you might have COPD, talk to your primary care physician. To find a primary care physician near you, visit www.gbmc.org/mydoctor.

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