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Beware of COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Author: Holly Hannigan, Posted: Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 09:00

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of lung conditions including bronchitis and emphysema. Often referred to as smoker’s disease, COPD is caused by inhaling harmful substances such as cigarette smoke or fumes, pollution and dust. Breathing these substances over a long period of time can cause permanent damage to your lungs. If you are over 35 and have been a smoker, you are at most risk of getting COPD.

The two main lung conditions are Bronchitis and Emphysema, which can occur together.

• Bronchitis means the airways are inflamed and narrowed. People with this condition often produce sputum, or phlegm.

• Emphysema affects the air sacs at the end of the airways in your lungs. They break down and the lungs become baggy and full of holes which trap air.

Symptoms of both of these conditions can include:

• Shortness of breath while completing everyday tasks

• Wheezing in cold weather

• A persistent cough

• Producing more phlegm than usual

These symptoms may appear all the time, or get worse when you have an infection or breathe in smoke or fumes. If you have severe COPD, you can lose your appetite, lose weight and find that your ankles swell.

A spirometry test, blood tests and BMI are all used to help make a diagnosis

To help diagnose COPD, doctors use a spirometry test, which involves breathing into a machine to measure your lung capacity and how quickly you can empty your lungs. Further tests involve a chest X-RAY and blood test, and calculating your BMI (body mass index) to see if you are a healthy weight for your height, because your body will be able to cope better with COPD if you are.

Managing your symptoms can involve:

• Stopping smoking

• Keeping active

• A healthy diet

• Making a plan with healthcare professionals

• Medications such as steroid inhalers or bronchodilator

• Oxygen

• Lung transplants – these are high risk and only available to a small number of people who meet the criteria

Pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is a programme of exercise and education designed for people living with COPD. It combines physical exercise sessions with advice and discussions about your lung health. The impact of PR is often bigger than the impact of taking inhaled medications. By combining the two approaches, you’re likely to get the most benefit.

The condition can’t be cured or reversed

The outlook for people with COPD varies but the condition can’t be cured or reversed. Many people find treatment and lifestyle changes can keep it under control, so it doesn’t severely limit their daily activities.

Unfortunately, having worked with many people with COPD, in some cases it continues to get worse despite treatment, eventually having a significant impact on their quality of life and leading to life threatening problems.

Make healthy life choices early on to help avoid COPD and enjoy every breath you take.

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