What You Need to Know About COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an obstructive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. COPD is characterized by long-term breathing problems and poor airflow.

COPD affects more than 175 million people worldwide, mainly those over 40 years old. Since it usually takes many years for lung damage to start causing symptoms, COPD is most common in people who are older than 60. It is currently the third leading cause of death in the United States.

COPD is newer terminology for a long-lasting illness. Many are more familiar with the terms “chronic bronchitis” and “emphysema” – older terminology for different types of COPD. Chronic bronchitis is when the bronchial tubes that carry air to the lungs get inflamed and produce mucus. This can narrow or block the airways, making it hard to breathe.

Emphysema is another term that is used to define the abnormal presence of air within tissues. In a healthy person, the tiny air sacs in the lungs are like balloons. As you breathe in and out, the tiny air sacs get bigger and smaller to move air through your lungs. With emphysema, the air sacs get damaged and lose their ability to stretch. Less air gets in and out of the lungs, making it hard to breathe.

What are the Symptoms of COPD?

The main symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and a chronic, phlegmy cough. A progressive disease, COPD gets worse over time, to the point where simple activities like walking, getting dressed or fixing a meal can become difficult due to shortness of breath.

As symptoms flare up and get worse, these exacerbations can often lead to decreased strength and weight loss. In time, many COPD sufferers are forced to use assisted oxygen either occasionally or full time.

What Causes COPD?

COPD is triggered by damage to the lungs over many years, usually from smoking tobacco. Other factors like breathing chemical fumes, dust, or air pollution over a long period of time, secondhand smoke and genetics have contributed to a smaller amount of COPD cases.

Genetics can also play a role. For example, those who had a serious lung infection as a child are more likely to get COPD. Those who had emphysema in middle life (age 30-40) may have a rare genetic disorder known as Alpha-1 (AAT), an antitrypsin deficiency that can run in families and increase the chances of COPD later in life.

More than 90% of COPD deaths are in the Third World. In underdeveloped countries, air pollution from poorly vented heating and cooking fires have also been contributors. Long-term exposure to these irritants can cause an inflammatory response in the lungs that results in the narrowing of the small airways, leading to a breakdown of lung tissue. Third World countries have higher tobacco smoking rates, which also contributes to the inflated numbers.

How is COPD Diagnosed?

If there is a chance that you could have COPD, it is important to find out as soon possible so there is enough time for treatment to slow the damage to your lungs. First, your primary physician will do an exam and listen to your lungs. They may have you perform breathing tests, such as a spirometry, to see how well your lungs are working. Your physician may also request X-rays and other tests to help rule out other issues that could be contributing to your symptoms, including an AAT test.

If you are diagnosed with COPD, your primary care physician may prescribe medicines to help you breathe easier. Medicines are usually inhaled so it goes straight to your lungs, so ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about using an inhaler.

Those with COPD are more likely to get lung infections, so it’s important to get a flu shot every year and stay up on your pneumococcal shot that helps prevent pneumonia. These shots don’t guarantee you won’t get the flu or pneumonia, but it might not be as bad if you do.

Your doctor may also recommend a pulmonary (lung) rehabilitation program to help you manage the disease.

Before you choose a rehab facility, make sure they offer top specialists and the type of specialists you need to manage your COPD. Facilities like The Bridge Care Suites has an expert team of therapists on board that includes a pulmonologist, or lung specialist. The efforts of your rehab team will go a long way toward helping you regain control of quality life.

How to Prevent COPD

The best way to prevent COPD is to not smoke. Those who have COPD can slow the effects by quitting smoking. It doesn’t matter how long you have smoked or how serious your COPD is – quitting smoking will help stop the damage to your lungs and allow the treatments to take hold.

Treatment can slow the effects of COPD, although no cure is available at this time. Treatment includes aid to quit smoking tobacco, respiratory rehabilitation protocols, vaccinations, and inhaled bronchodilators and steroids. Some patients receive help from long-term oxygen therapy or a lung transplant. For acute worsening, patients may receive increased medications, antibiotics or steroids. In extreme cases, hospitalization may be needed.

How Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Can Help COPD

Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation at The Bridge Care Suites can stop the symptoms of COPD from worsening and improve your overall breathing. The rehabilitation team will study your medical records and get an idea of your current lifestyle, daily activities, and what you want to achieve through the program.

As part of the therapy, you’ll have your heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure checked while walking on a treadmill while the rehab team studies your lung function. Based on their findings, you’ll receive some light exercises to improve breathing, and receive tips on healthy diet choices that can give you more energy and help keep you stay focused. Nutritious meals can slow mucus production and aid in building immunity.

Your customized rehabilitation program will also include relaxation and breathing techniques, medications and oxygen therapy treatments aimed at reducing your shortness of breath. You’ll also meet with other COPD patients to share the experiences, outcomes and successful strategies of therapy. An important part of rehab is counseling because it helps identify the triggers that worsen COPD and teaches attendees the much-needed skills to cope. Counseling is a great place to receive encouragement, motivation and emotional support.

At The Bridge Care Suites, most patients turn their lives around though cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. Many have more energy and control over their lives and the COPD. Patients who continue to follow our Maintenance Instructions that are given at the end of the program soon discover that life is on the up and up!

The Bridge Care Suites offers both in-house and visiting cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. As a visitor, you’ll visit a few times each week for treatment. The Bridge Care Suites has an expert team of therapists on board that includes a pulmonologist, or lung specialists. You’ll work with professionals like an occupational therapist, dietician, physical therapist, psychologist, social worker and spiritual advisor to alleviate your symptoms and regain control of your life.

The Bridge Care Suites has 57 private rooms with 178 square feet of living space with a private bathroom and a private shower in each room. Guest rooms include a comfy bed, flatscreen TVs and windows with pleasant views. Semi-private rooms are also available. 

A diagnosis of COPD doesn’t have to slow your aging mom or dad down, especially when they follow the treatment as recommended by their doctor. Our staff is here to help. With our care team you can have peace of mind knowing that a professional is looking out for your elderly mom or dad as they improve COPD. 

If you or an aging loved-one are considering help please talk to our caring staff at The Bridge Care Suites. Call today (217) 787-0000.

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