If you find that normal activity leaves you breathless, wheezy and coughing then it’s highly likely that you have COPD. A huge number of people have this dangerous condition without realising – around half of the people who suffer from it. So, what is COPD? Those four letters stand for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It’s a group of lung conditions that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The 16th
of November is World COPD Day – these lung conditions can be fatal, so we want to make sure that all our readers are aware of the signs and symptoms.
Do you have these tell-tale COPD symptoms?
COPD is quite often shrugged off as a ‘smokers cough’, but it’s more serious than that. You don’t have to be a smoker to experience these common symptoms:
- Breathlessness that is gradually getting worse
- A chesty, phlegmy cough that won’t go away
- Frequent chest infections
- Wheezing or other strained, noisy breathing
Other less common symptoms include tiredness, weight loss, swollen ankles and chest pain. COPD develops slowly, getting worse over the years. This means you may not have noticed your symptoms getting worse. If symptoms like these have been troubling you for some time, please see a doctor! This is particularly important if you’re over the age of 35 and a current or former smoker.
What’s involved in COPD diagnosis?
There are a few different factors that can cause COPD. Smoking is the main cause in around 9 out of 10 cases; the toxic chemicals in cigarettes damage the lungs, leading to problems. If you work or live around chemical fumes dust or other air pollution you are also at risk. There’s also thought to be a genetic factor in COPD, as there is a gene that can you inherit which makes your lungs more vulnerable to damage.
When you see your doctor, they will examine your breathing, possibly giving you a test called spirometry that can show how well your lungs work. X-rays and blood tests can also be used to check that you don’t have a similar condition like lung cancer.
What are my options for COPD treatment?
It’s scary to find out that you have a lung disease, but with the right treatment you can live a lot more comfortably. There isn’t a cure for COPD yet but by getting diagnosed and treated you will be able to control and slow your symptoms.
If you’re a smoker, then a diagnosis of COPD should be the incentive you need to finally kick the habit. It’s the most effective way to prevent your symptoms from getting worse. Unfortunately, it won’t reverse the damage you’ve already done to your lungs, but it will stop more from happening. Smoking is such a big factor in COPD that quitting is often all that needs to be done to treat it in its early stages!
Inhalers and Nebulisers
Feeling wheezy all the time is uncomfortable; luckily once your COPD is diagnosed you will be given an inhaler to help you breathe more clearly. These usually contain either bronchodilators of steroids; both will help to reduce inflammation in your airways. A more efficient way to take these types of medications is to use nebulisers
. A nebuliser can also be used for other lung conditions like asthma; it works by changing your medication from a liquid to a mist, making it much easier for your lungs to absorb. We can supply a wide variety, including our top selling Beurer IH21 Nebuliser Machine
and the compact Beurer IH50 Nebuliser
Medication and Surgery
Serious cases of COPD may need medication via tablets or capsules. These offer a more powerful way to open your airways, while also reducing the amount of phlegm in your throat. Flare ups and chest infections can be treated with steroids or antibiotics. If medication doesn’t work and your COPD becomes very severe, you may need surgery such as a lung transplant. However, this only happens in rare cases.
Living With COPD
Your doctor will arrange for your COPD to be monitored so that when it gets worse you can access more treatment. Taking steps to stay healthy like gentle exercise and eating a healthy diet can also help to slow the progress of COPD, while also improving your life. Make sure you keep talking to your loved ones so that they can support you and ease your worries.
COPD can eventually be life threatening, which is why it’s so important to see your doctor if you’re having difficulty breathing. If you or someone you know has the symptoms described in this article it’s vital to get checked out so that they can be treated. COPD is the 5th
most fatal disease in the UK – by spreading awareness, you can help stop some of the estimated 25,000 deaths a year from happening.