A nagging cough is often easily dismissed, but could actually be an early sign of COPD.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) almost 15.7 million Americans reported that they have been diagnosed with COPD making it the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2014.
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a group of irreversible (cannot be cured) lung diseases. The most common cause of COPD is first hand or second hand cigarette smoke.
COPD is an umbrella term which includes lung diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.They cause patients to be short of breath with activities and also have a chronic cough.
Chronic asthma is also included in COPD. Although asthma is known to be reversible, in some patients, it progresses and becomes irreversible. If you have COPD, you’ll have it for life as there is no cure for this disease.
You may have chronic bronchitis or emphysema, and not even realize it because often times the symptoms develop later. Major symptoms associated with COPD include
The earlier COPD is diagnosed, the better the patient outcomes, as the progression of the disease can be slowed.
Symptoms of COPD
- A persistent cough with mucus production that happens constantly during the day or night.
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (A whistling sound you make while exhaling due to airway being compressed)
- Chest tightness
- Inability to take a good deep breath
COPD is diagnosed by a breathing test that measures lung function, called spirometry. Your doctor will get you to breathe, or blow into a machine as hard as you can and hold that breath as long as you can.
Also, in order to determine how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in your blood, your doctor will perform a blood test.
Because COPD has no cure, the current therapies simply make a patient feel better, or slow down the progression of their disease.
To control the condition and help you breathe more easily, you need to stop smoking, which can help stop the damage to your lungs. Also, you may have to stop being around cigarette smoke.
To help relieve COPD symptoms, you may breathe in a bronchodilator medicine through an inhaler to open up your airways, or take steroids to bring down the swelling in your lungs.
If you’re having trouble breathing, this is an emergency, so you must call 911. You could be admitted to the hospital for oxygen and medication to help your lungs.
During flare-ups, you may need to take antibiotics, because getting an infection can make your COPD worse.
Light exercise might help, but it may be difficult to exercise when you’re feeling out of breath. Your doctor, or respiratory therapist, might give you simple exercises to stay active and keep your lung muscles strong. Also, you can learn different ways to breathe, so that you can begin regular physical exercise.