Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
What is COPD and How Can It Be Managed?
November is National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. COPD is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma. It means that a patient’s lungs are permanently altered, the airways in the lungs are constantly narrowed, and the chronic inflammation of the lungs causes breathlessness and difficulty in breathing.
COPD is a progressive disease, but those with the diagnosis can learn to manage the symptoms, breathe better and live an enjoyable life. An estimated 16 million Americans suffer from COPD, according to the National Institute of Health, but many of those cases may go untreated due to lack of awareness, diagnosis and early treatment.
The three diseases included in a COPD diagnoses are:
- Emphysema affects the alveoli, or air sacks, in the lungs that are crucial in transporting oxygen (O2) into the body and expelling carbon dioxide (CO2) from the body.
- Chronic Bronchitis causes chronic inflammation and mucus production in the lungs. This usually occurs for several months out of the year, and is accompanied by a ragged cough that is most pronounced in the mornings and in damp, cold weather.
- Chronic Asthma obstructs the airways by tightening lung muscles, but may be responsive to medication that relaxes those constricting muscles.
How do you know if you or a loved one is suffering from COPD? “If you are experiencing shortness of breath, wheezing, a ragged, chronic cough that produces mucus, are easily fatigued, have suffered frequent respiratory infections, or have ever smoked, it might be a good idea to talk with your doctor about COPD,” explained Dr. Mary Wahbah, a PIH Health Internal Medicine specialist.
“Coping with a COPD diagnosis will mean having to make some lifestyle changes, but you can learn how to manage your COPD, breathe more easily and live a meaningful life,” she said.
COPD is preventable. The best way to avoid COPD is to stop smoking and to avoid air pollution. You can also manage a COPD diagnosis by staying up to date on vaccinations for conditions that can worsen COPD, such as pneumonia, learning improved breathing techniques and avoiding strenuous activity that might cause breathlessness.
To learn more about COPD call 562.789.5449 or visit PIHHealth.org.