COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a long-term disease that affects the lungs. The most common cause of COPD is smoking, although there are cases of nonsmokers with the condition, as well.
COPD is actually a "blanket" diagnosis that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, among other lung diseases.
It is estimated that 1.5 million Canadians and 24 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD.
COPD sufferers will tell you that it feels like they're breathing through a straw.
- shortness of breath
- increased mucus (phlegm) and coughing
- a barrel-shaped chest
- frequent and long-lasting lung infections such as pneumonia
- losing weight without trying
Many people consider these symptoms normal with aging, but they're not. If you are experiencing or have experienced any of these symptoms in combination, talk to your doctor.
The normal diagnostic tool for determining whether or not a person has COPD is a spirometer. A person will blow into a tube and the machine will measure how long it takes for a person to blow all the air out of their lungs. The more severe the blockage a person's airways are, the longer it will take to expel all the air.
Chest X-rays will determine how much damage the lungs have suffered, and blood tests will measure how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in a person's blood stream.
While research continues, there is no known cure for COPD, yet. Until there is, the focus will be on preventing and lessening symptoms and onset of symptoms.
Sufferers of COPD will be recommended to:
- quit smoking
- take medications regularly
- alter lifestyle to stay healthy
- fight germs to keep infections away (washing hands, getting flu/pneumonia shots, keep house and surroundings clean)
- join a pulmonary rehabilitation program (teaches how to exercise, how to get the most from your lungs, and how to manage your condition)