Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease-COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow as you exhale and make it increasingly difficult for you to breathe.
Emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis are the two main conditions that make up COPD. In all cases, damage to your airways eventually interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs.
COPD is a leading cause of death and illness worldwide. Most COPD is caused by long-term smoking and can be prevented by not smoking or quitting soon after you start. This damage to your lungs can’t be reversed, so treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and minimizing further damage.
Symptoms of COPD
The main symptoms of COPD are:
- A long-lasting (chronic) cough.
- Mucus that comes up when you cough.
- Shortness of breath that gets worse when you exercise.
As COPD gets worse, you may be short of breath even when you do simple things like get dressed or fix a meal. It gets harder to eat or exercise, and breathing takes much more energy. People often lose weight and get weaker.
At times, symptoms of COPD may suddenly flare up and get much worse. This is called a COPD exacerbation. An exacerbation can range from mild to life-threatening. The longer you have COPD, the more severe these flare-ups will be.
Treatment Of COPD
The best COPD treatment is to quit smoking. This is the most important thing you can do. It is never too late to quit. No matter how long you have smoked or how serious your COPD is, quitting smoking can help stop the damage to your lungs.
It’s hard to quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about treatments that can help. You will double your chances of quitting even if medicine is the only treatment you use to quit, but your odds get even better when you combine medicine and other quit strategies, such as counseling. To learn more about how to quit, go to www.smokefree.gov, or call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).
Your doctor can prescribe treatments that may help you manage your COPD symptoms and feel better.
- Medicines can help you breathe easier. Most of them are inhaled so they go straight to your lungs. If you get an inhaler, it is very important to use it just the way your doctor shows you.
- A lung (pulmonary) rehab program can help you learn to manage your disease. A team of health professionals can provide counseling and teach you how to breathe easier, exercise, and eat well.
- In time, you may need to use oxygen some or most of the time.
People who have COPD are more likely to get lung infections, so you will need to get a flu vaccine every year. You should also get a pneumococcal shot. It may not keep you from getting pneumonia. But if you do get pneumonia, you probably will not be as sick.
There are many things you can do at home to stay as healthy as you can.
- Avoid things that can irritate your lungs, such as smoke, pollution, and air that is cold and dry.
- Use an air conditioner or air filter in your home.
- Take rest breaks during the day.
- Get regular exercise to stay as strong as you can.
- Eat well so you can keep up your strength. If you are losing weight, ask your doctor or dietitian about ways to make it easier to get the calories you need.