More than 12 million Americans find it hard to breathe because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. The symptoms of COPD are similar to other lung conditions like asthma and can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose. Lets take a closer look at some of the frequently asked questions about COPD.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of chronic inflammatory lung diseases that affect your breathing. Smoking is the primary cause of COPD but some people may be at a higher risk for developing the disease because of asthma, genetic disorders, or long-term exposure to chemical fumes and toxic dust.
Two of the most common diseases under the COPD umbrella include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis describes inflammation in the lining of the bronchial tubes that transport air from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It triggers your body to produce excess mucus that interferes with your breathing, causing a persistent cough.
Emphysema develops when cigarette smoke or other environmental toxins destroy the alveoli in the air passages of your lungs. COPD can worsen over time but with early medical intervention, you can manage the condition and prevent it from progressing.
When should I seek treatment for COPD?
Schedule a diagnostic evaluation for COPD at Greenbrook Medical if you have persistent symptoms of the disease, such as:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Chronic fatigue
- Recurrent respiratory infections
The physicians offer pulmonary function tests (PFTs) to diagnose COPD. The test requires you to breathe into a machine that measures how much air you can move in and out of your lungs and how fast you can move it.
If you experience sudden and severe shortness of breath or changes in your heart rate, you need to call 911 right away or seek immediate treatment at the nearest emergency room to prevent complications.
How is COPD treated?
If you’re still smoking, the Greenbrook Medical physicians can provide you with resources to help you quit for good. Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk for a worsening of your COPD symptoms.
Other treatment options for COPD include the following:
People with COPD can manage their symptoms with medications. This includes shortness of breath, cough, and other COPD symptoms. Talk to your doctor about prescribing short-acting medications to relax the muscles in your airways.
Long-acting medications are also available to prevent inflammation in your airways. When your COPD symptoms are moderate to severe, you may need steroids or other drugs to reduce inflammation. If you develop bacterial respiratory infections, the providers can prescribe antibiotics.
If you have persistent shortness of breath that interferes with your ability to be physically active, the physicians may recommend supplemental oxygen therapy.
A referral for a pulmonary rehabilitation program can also be beneficial for strengthening your lungs, so you don’t have to rely on oxygen therapy.
Can COPD put you at risk for other health problems?
Not only does COPD impair your lung function, but it can also cause other health problems. It increases your risk for the following:
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
- Lumg Damage
Our doctors at Greenbrook Medical can offer advice on lifestyle changes to prevent your COPD from becoming worse. Call the Greenbrook Medical office nearest you or request an appointment online today to schedule a diagnostic evaluation for COPD symptoms.