COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is used to describe progressive lung diseases which can include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, non-reversible asthma, and some forms of bronchitis. Symptoms of COPD don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time.
People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations when their symptoms suddenly get much worse. Symptoms include breathlessness, chromic coughing and wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging when in fact it could be early signs of COPD.
The following information is provided by the COPD Foundation:
- Approximately 12 million adults have COPD and another 12 million are undiagnosed or are developing COPD.
- COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
- COPD kills more women than mean each year. In 2006, COOPD killed more American women than breast cancer and diabetes combined.
- Every four minutes an individual dies of COPD.
- It is estimated that 210 million individuals worldwide have COPD and total deaths are expected to increase more than thirty percent in the next ten years.
- Smoking is not the only cause of COPD; second-hand smoke, occupational dust and chemicals, air pollution and genetic factors also cause this disease.
- COPD is relatively easy to diagnose using a spirometry machine, where the patient exhales as much as po9ssible into a tube.
- There's no cure yet for COPD but treatments are available to help individuals live with their COPD.
You can't undo the damage to your lungs, but COPD treatments can control symptoms, reduce your risk of complications and exacerbations, and improve your ability to lead an active life.
Treatments and Drugs (provided by the Mayo Clinic)
Stop smoking - This is the only way to keep COPD from getting worse which can eventually result in losing your ability to breathe.
Bronchodilators - These usually come in an inhaler, and help relax the muscles around your airways. This can help relieve coughing and shortness of breath and make breathing easier.
Inhaled steroids - Inhaled corticosteroid medications can reduce airway inflammation and help you breathe better. Prolonged use of these medications can weaken your bones and increase your risk of high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes. These are usually reserved for people with moderate or severe COPD.
Antibiotics - Respiratory infections such as acute bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza can aggravate COPS symptoms. Antibiotics can help fight bacterial infections, but are recommended only when necessary.
Oxygen therapy - If there isn't enough oxygen in your blood, you may need supplemental oxygen. There are several devices to deliver oxygen to your lungs, including lightweight, portable units that you can take with you to run errands and get around town. Some people with COPD use oxygen only during activities or while sleeping. Other use oxygen all the time.
Hyperbaric chamber - Hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses a specialized chamber to increase the concentration of oxygen in the bloodstream. The chamber is pressurized two and one-half to three times greater than normal air pressure, thus forcing more oxygen into the blood and throughout the body. Originally developed to treat divers, research is slowly uncovering the benefits of hyperbaric treatment for a wide variety of conditions which include wound healing, brain injury, infection and so much more.
Complications can include:
Respiratory infections - You are more likely to get frequent colds, the flu or pneumonia. This can make it much more difficult to breathe and produce further irreversible damage to the lung tissues.
High blood pressure - COPD may cause high blood pressure in the arteries that bring blood to your lungs which puts great strain on your heart.
Heart problems - COPD also increases your risk of heart disease, including heart attack.
Depression - Difficulty breathing can keep you from doing activities that you enjoy. It can be very difficulty to deal with a disease that is progressive and incurable.