Imagine running a marathon while breathing through a tiny coffee stirrer straw. How many people living with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describe what it feels like to walk into a room.
Unfortunately, trouble breathing, frequent coughing and wheezing, and difficulty performing simple household tasks are problems people with COPD know all too well. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 million Americans who have been diagnosed feel that way. However, this number must be much larger as there are millions of others with COPD who are not diagnosed and are not being treated.
November is National COPD Awareness Month, and with one death due to COPD every four minutes, spreading awareness is important. To do so, Jenny Deal, Iredale Health System’s director of respiratory care, shared more information about the disease and the importance of early detection.
Although Deal often encounters COPD working in respiratory care, the disease has more of a personal, specific significance to her than her profession.
“My grandmother had COPD when I was young. Later in life, both of my parents were diagnosed with COPD. My mother recently passed away from complications of end-stage COPD, and my father is a maintenance worker of his COPD. do daily home remedies for,” said Deal.
“There is no cure for COPD, only treatment and maintenance. Awareness of COPD helps the community understand the risks, signs and symptoms. This can help people seek treatment sooner and lead healthier, more productive lives.” Is.”
Although COPD is irreversible, early detection and treatment can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. So, what exactly is COPD, and how does a person get it?
What is COPD?
“COPD is an umbrella term used to describe a number of lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (severe) asthma. COPD is characterized by reduced air flow in and out of the airways inside the lungs, causing shortness of breath. It becomes difficult to take,” Deal said.
Many people with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
COPD is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. The disease can interfere with your ability to work, work, and sleep. It can also affect your heart, reducing its ability to pump blood effectively. It is a leading cause of disability and a leading cause of death in the United States.
“You can actually have COPD and not know it. It can develop slowly, and most don’t know they have it until they are in their 40s or older. Go,” Deal said.
Who is at risk?
Most cases of COPD are caused by smoking. Secondhand smoke can also cause COPD or make it worse. In fact, according to the CDC, smoking is responsible for 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths.
Other risk factors include exposure to air pollution and working with chemicals, dust and fumes.
“People who work in jobs where they are exposed to chemicals, paint fumes and dust, such as furniture and hosiery workers, or people who work outdoors with chemicals and dust, should always Must wear a high quality mask or specified respirator.” ,
What are the symptoms?
According to Deal, common symptoms of COPD include:
- difficulty breathing
- chronic cough (which often produces mucus)
- lack of power
- chest tightness
- frequent respiratory infections
The early signs and symptoms of COPD can be subtle. You may dismiss your cough as a typical smoker’s cough or think that your shortness of breath and lack of energy are due to being out of shape and aging.
However, it is important to report any symptoms of COPD to your provider, as early detection is important for slowing progression and starting treatment. You can ask your provider for pulmonary function tests to check how well your lungs are working and to check for COPD periodically. The respiratory department at Iredale Memorial Hospital can do this test.
People with COPD may also experience occasional flare-ups where symptoms are more severe. These flare-ups are usually caused by a respiratory infection or cold and can land you in the hospital.
What are the treatment options?
Although there is no cure for COPD, there are treatment options available to reduce symptoms. First of all, if you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking will help slow the progression of the disease. You may also consider changing jobs if you work in an area that exposes you to fumes or chemicals that irritate your lungs.
“The best way to help prevent or manage COPD is always to avoid the amount of time a person is exposed,” Deal said.
According to Deal, other treatment options for COPD may be prescribed by your provider. These treatments include:
- bronchodilators, such as albuterol, which you can take as an inhaler or nebulizer
- oral steroids
- inhaled steroids
- supplemental oxygen
You may also consider asking your provider about a referral to Iredale Health System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program. Pulmonary rehab includes exercise and education to help you take charge of your COPD so you can function better in daily life.
COPD can be very serious, even fatal, and early detection is important. If you have symptoms of COPD, be sure to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your concerns and receive early treatment.