Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that affect the lungs and a patients ability to breathe properly. Several of the symptoms that are experienced include a shortness of breath, coughing and higher then normal production of lower airway mucosa.
People at higher risk of developing COPD include smokers, people living in areas of high pollution or working with prolonged exposure to dust and other chemicals. Genetics can also play a part however this represents only 5% of cases. More often then not environmental and lifestyle choices are the cause of COPD.
How does COPD develop?
COPD occurs when the structure of a patient’s lungs are damaged over time. This damage is often very slow and gradual that a patient will not notice the reduced ability for their lungs to absorb oxygen until treatment is required. While specific conditions vary depending on the type of COPD that a patient develops, generally it is the alveoli and bronchi that bear the brunt of the damage. These are structures within the lungs that aid in the transfer of oxygen into the bloodstream.
Living with COPD.
The sad truth is that once you are diagnosed with COPD you will likely have to live with it for the rest of your life. Fortunately there are many treatments available to help improve a patient’s quality of life, including.
- Exercise – The good news is that a healthy dose of regular exercise can do you a lot of good. Cardio specific exercises have been shown to improve general quality of life and lower mortality rates among COPD patients.
- Oxygen Therapy – Using replacement oxygen aids a patient during physical exercise. Modern oxygen concentrators are small and lightweight enabling a COPD patient to travel more freely and with more independence.
- Bronchodilator medication – This medication helps to open the airways and is best administered by a puffer, similar to that of an Asthma patient.
What can I do to stop COPD?
First and foremost, if you are a smoker stop right now. Throw them in the bin and never touch them again. This is by far the biggest contributor factor to the development of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. If you work in a harsh environment take steps to find an alternative position located in a healthier environment. If you happen to live in a city with a high level of air pollution consider relocating to a cleaner town.
Remember that most cases of COPD are environmental or lifestyle related. If you’ve been diagnosed with a mild case of COPD you can take steps now to slow or prevent a worsening of your symptoms.
Is there a COPD support group?
Good news on this front as there are already well established groups to help you or your loved one through what can be a tough time. We are proud corporate sponsors of The Lung Foundation, who are the largest Australian COPD support group. If COPD is a new phrase in your family give you can contact them on 1800 654 301.