What is COPD?

resources Jun 17, 2022

COPD is a respiratory disease that long term affects your breathing.  It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.  The main cause of this disease is constant exposure to irritants that damage your lungs and your airway.  Smoking is a major cause of COPD.  Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis are the most common conditions of this disease.


Treatment can help, but this disease can not be reversed.  The damage that is caused to your lungs will remain.  Common symptoms of COPD which can easily be identified are:  shortness of breath during exertion, wheezing, chest tightness, a cough where you produce mucus, lack of energy, and at times swelling in ankles and feet.


There are some things you can do to slow the progression of this disease.  Stop smoking if you do smoke and this will stop further lung damage.  Treatments can include inhalers that you may take on a regular basis that will help open your airways to make breathing easier, and sometimes COPD would require an inhaler that you carry with you at all times to use if performing an activity that causes severe shortness of breath and struggling to breathe. It will open your airways to make breathing a little easier.


It is really important if you observe any of these signs and symptoms with your loved ones to seek medical attention right away.  COPD is not a terminal disease, this illness can be managed if recognized early and treatments are started.  There are four stages of COPD.  If your loved one has not made any lifestyle changes and/or non-compliant with any treatments that have been prescribed, the disease will progress to Stage 4 which is end stage COPD.  This stage of the disease will require the use of nebulizer treatments throughout the day and supplemental oxygen.


Here are a few tips to know about COPD.  If the weather is extremely cold outside, wear a scarf or mask when going outside which will warm the air you breathe and make it easier.  You should also avoid going outside on days with poor air quality or in a polluted air area.


Coping with this disease is very difficult.  With age, COPD does progress in its severity.  At this point even the act of eating can cause severe shortness of breath so the choice is usually made to not eat or eat very little.  If patients continue to smoke, studies have shown that living with this disease can reduce the length of your life by 6 years.  If your disease has progressed to end stage COPD, your loved one would benefit from additional palliative care or hospice care.


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