Have you ever found it difficult to breathe? If so, then you might suffer from COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disease that’s considered to be common. You may have many questions if you suffer from COPD. This article will discuss its symptoms, causes, and any possible treatments that you can receive to relieve it.
Causes Of COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease comes in two main forms. The first is chronic bronchitis. This is a cough with mucus that occurs regularly no matter what the season or your health is. The second is Emphysema. This describes the condition in which damage has been done to your lungs. Those who suffer from COPD usually have one or both of these conditions in various severities.
The main cause of COPD is smoking. The chances of developing COPD increase the longer that you smoke. However, not all smokers will develop COPD. It’s also possible to develop COPD without smoking. Nonsmokers who lack a key protein known as alpha-1 antitrypsin can develop COPD.
A few other risk factors that might cause COPD to develop are exposure to fumes or certain gases where you work. These fumes and gases can damage your lungs over time. You may not even notice the damage until several years after you’ve finished working there. Another risk factor is being exposed to secondhand smoking. There is a lot of research out there about the adverse health effects that secondhand smoking can provide. Some of them can be just as bad as smoking itself.
Those who are exposed to heavy pollution in the air are also at risk for developing COPD. The pollutants damage your lungs over time. This is why many Asian countries have their occupants wear masks on days when the air quality is poor. One last risk factor is frequent exposure to cooking fires without proper ventilation. Cooks and chefs who work with cooking fires in places where the smoke remains in the room can severely damage their lungs. Eventually, this damage can form COPD.
There are a few symptoms of COPD that you can recognize. One of the most recognizable is a cough. Sometimes the cough is joined with mucus and other times it is a dry cough. This cough is persistent. You may also experience fatigue. When your lungs are unable to work efficiently, it takes a greater strain on your heart. As a result, you become tired more frequently and easily.
You may also be prone to more respiratory infections. You may notice that you’re developing bronchitis more or perhaps you fell ill with pneumonia. You may even find that you’re just more susceptible to developing a cold than you used to be. Another symptom is shortness of breath. This typically becomes worse with the increase of activity that you perform. For example, if you notice that your breathing is harder to achieve after a mild walk, then it might be a sign of COPD. Perhaps you find you’re short of breath even after doing something as simple as standing up from a chair.
Another symptom of COPD is a difficulty in being able to catch your breath. This can be compounded with shortness of breath. It’s a result of your lungs being unable to take in oxygen as well because of their damage. One last symptom that is a sign of COPD is wheezing. This is a sound that is associated with breathing. You can even sometimes feel the wheeze inside of your lungs or chest.
Not all of these symptoms will occur. You may only experience one or two. They may also not occur all at the same time. The symptoms can develop slowly over time. This makes it difficult to recognize if you’re suffering from COPD. You may only think that you have asthma or that you’re suffering from a bout of allergies.
Should you be suffering from any of these symptoms, the best way to tell if you have COPD is to have yourself tested.
Diagnosis For COPD
The primary test used to determine if you suffer from COPD or not is called spirometry. You’ll be asked to blow into a machine as hard as you can. The machine then tests your lung capacity and efficiency. The doctor is then able to read the results immediately, and a diagnosis can be made. If you are unable to breathe out with a lot of pressure and capacity, then you likely suffer from COPD.
A doctor may also choose to listen to your lungs as you breathe in and out. They’ll place a stethoscope against your chest and back to listen to your lungs. However, this isn’t always the best method for determining COPD alone. Not all of the symptoms make a sound within the lungs. In fact, they often sound normal even with COPD.
Another test that they might ask you to have performed are imaging tests. X-rays and CT Scans are the go-to imaging tests for COPD. X-rays are cheaper than CT scans but they also don’t always show COPD if it’s present. A CT scan, on the other hand, can show COPD in the lungs.
Finally, a blood test may also be used to determine if you’re suffering from COPD. This test is called an arterial blood gas test. It’s used to take a measure of the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. Clearly, if your blood lacks oxygen, then your lungs are having a problem. Those who have COPD have higher levels of carbon dioxide in their blood than those who do not have COPD.
Treatment For COPD
Unfortunately, there isn’t a current cure for COPD. However, doctors can offer treatments to help alleviate the symptoms and reduce the spread and deterioration of COPD. They’ll first suggest that you quit smoking if you’re a smoker. The damage being done to your lungs is only going to be made worse by smoking. They can offer medications and other resources to help you quit smoking.
During an attack, or when you can’t breathe well, your doctor will prescribe to you quick-relief drugs. These drugs, called bronchodilators, help to open up your airways. They’ll allow oxygen into your lungs and essentially give your lungs the boost that they need to perform their job. They do this by relaxing the muscles associated with your airways.
A drug that you need to use every day is known as Control Drugs. This help reduces the amount of inflammation that’s in your lungs. Often in the form of inhalers, you typically take a puff or the prescribed amount once a day or a few times a day depending on the severity of the COPD. They must be used every day in order to have a strong effect on the lungs.
Another treatment that you might be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications that keep the airways from becoming inflamed. This can make it more difficult for your lungs to perform their job. To ensure that mucus and other viruses don’t infect the lungs, you may also be given antibiotics to keep your lungs healthy.
Finally, you may also need to receive oxygen therapy, steroids, or assistance from a machine during a flare-up. All of these are used when the flare-up is bad and you are unable to breathe.
Living with COPD can be scary, but it’s possible to live a full life with it. Stay healthy, exercise, eat right, and you can find relief.