Monday, September 22, 2014

What is COPD and What Does It Mean for Me?

respiratory equipment

Do you have difficulty breathing? Most of the time, labored breathing is the result of a rigorous physical workout or strenuous activity. But severe strenuous breathing could also be a symptom of COPD. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD, is a progressive group of lung diseases that makes breathing difficult by blocking airflow. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common conditions that make up COPD. About 24 million people are affected by COPD in the United States every year.

What is COPD?

COPD is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
In emphysema, the walls of the lungs' alveoli (air sacs) break down, creating fewer, larger alveoli. COPD causes shortness of breath and can lead to oedema and heart failure. It is usually caused by smoking and damage is irreparable.

COPD is not usually something you wake up with one morning. It’s not something that just happens all of a sudden. This is something that happens over time, usually years. So knowing your symptoms early on can help treat the disease and make your life a bit easier.  Let us take a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for COPD.

Causes of COPD

It’s not just smokers. There are other health problems such as Chronic Bronchitis that can lead to COPD. People who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, as well as those who inhale second-hand smoke, are most vulnerable to COPD. Other cases of COPD are also caused due to prolonged exposure to fumes, chemicals, and dust found in work environments. One more important contributing factor to COPD is genetic factors. A deficiency in Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein can lead to COPD. Without this protein, white blood cells begin to harm the lungs, which eventually deteriorate.

The Symptoms of COPD

  • Increased breathlessness - People with COPD tend to experience increased breathlessness. As the disease progresses, breathlessness increases
  • Chronic cough - Another easily identifiable symptom is chronic cough. This is usually the first symptom for someone suffering from COPD. For most people, it occurs well before the disease has fully developed
  • Wheezing - As breathing gets more difficult with time, most people tend to develop wheezing. This makes it even harder to breath

Treatments for COPD

The most common treatment for COPD is oxygen therapy. Oxygen can reduce the shortness of breath and prevent blood oxygen levels from dropping. Most oxygen therapy is done using a portable oxygen concentrator with tubing, which is great for people who would like to continue to live active lifestyles. In addition, many hospitals also use oxygen concentrators that work more quietly and can be kept next to patient beds. These concentrators can also be used at home for people who have limited mobility.

Lastly, there are a few breathing techniques that seem to help with COPD. For example, breathing with pursed lips can help slow down your breathing rate, while keeping airways open longer so that air can reach your lungs. This increases the amount of time you can perform an activity, by improving exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Living with COPD doesn’t have to be as difficult as the disease itself. There are so many advancements in home medical care that allow you to live with it as comfortably as you can. Visit PHC-Online to browse through our selection of oxygen concentrators and other respiratory equipment today.

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