COPD and coping with breathlessness
The full term for COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. COPD as it is known is two long term lung diseases – chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Anyone who suffers from COPD knows the disease makes it extremely difficult for you to breathe. COPD has no cure. However, taking certain measures can help you manage the disease.
Here are some COPD facts about living with COPD, the symptoms of this lung disorder, how you can treat it and what causes it.
If I have COPD how does that affect my lungs
Air is carried in and out of your lungs through tubes called airways. The earliest tell-tale sign of COPD is when these airways become partially blocked from swelling or mucus build up. This will result in you finding it difficult to breathe. At the end of the airways are many tiny balloon-like air sacs, which inflate and deflate when you breathe in and out. With COPD, these air sacs lose their elasticity. If this happens it can lead to the collapse of small airways and make it more difficult for you to breathe easily.
What causes COPD
The most common cause of COPD is smoking. The disease will progress much quicker in smokers. Passive smoking is also a cause of COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can also be caused by long term exposure to other irritants. These include:
- Air pollution
How COPD is diagnosed
If you think you have COPD you need to seek medical advice. Your GP will check your medical history, take a physical examination and also run some breathing tests.
The first breathing test the GP will run to check if you have COPD is the spirometry test. This is a painless and simple test which involves you breathing into a hose which is connected to a spirometer machine. This machine then measures how much air your lungs can hold as well as measure how quick you can blow air out of your lungs.
What are the signs and symptoms of COPD?
The most common symptoms of COPD are:
- A continuous cough that does not disappear
- Huge amounts of mucus when you cough
- Shortness of breath at the sign of activity
- A tightness in the chest
COPD treatment is not a cure. The goal is to ease your symptoms and make your quality of life better. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease treatment will slow down the progression of the disease, prevent or treat any complications and help you breathe more easily. Part of your COPD treatment will be a serious of breathing exercises which will help you to cope with the illness you have.