Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Nov 13, 2020

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or (COPD), the third leading cause of death globally, is a preventable and treatable disease. Cheryl Farley, RN, BSN, manager of Pulmonary Rehab at UHC, joins us to bring awareness to COPD, as November 18 is COPD Day.

1). What Is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. COPD includes emphysema; chronic bronchitis; and in some cases, asthma.

With COPD, less air flows through the airways—the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs—because of one or more of the following:

  • The airways and tiny air sacs in the lungs lose their ability to stretch and shrink back.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed (irritated and swollen).
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which can clog them and block airflow.

2). What are some common signs and symptoms?

In the early stages of COPD, there may be no symptoms, or you may only have mild symptoms, such as:

  • A nagging cough (often called “smoker’s cough”)
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe)
  • Tightness in the chest As the disease gets worse, symptoms may include:
    • Having trouble catching your breath or talking
    • Blue or gray lips and/or fingernails (a sign of low oxygen levels in your blood)
    • Trouble with mental alertness
    • A very fast heartbeat
    • Swelling in the feet and ankles
    • Weight loss

How severe your COPD symptoms are depends on how damaged your lungs are. If you keep smoking, the damage will get worse faster than if you stop smoking.4 Among 15 million U.S. adults with COPD, 39% continue to smoke.

3). How can COPD be prevented and treated?

The best way to prevent COPD is to never start smoking, and if you smoke, quit. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, stay away from secondhand smoke, which is smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Secondhand smoke also is smoke that has been exhaled, or breathed out, by a person smoking.

Treatment of COPD requires a careful and thorough exam by a doctor. Even though there is no cure for COPD, lifestyle changes and treatments can help you breathe easier, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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