November is COPD Awareness Month
November 1, 2023
Nearly 16 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD. Another 16 million more have the disease but are undiagnosed. COPD is (currently) an incurable disease.With the right diagnosis and treatment, there are things that you can do to slow the progress of the disease and live a happier, healthier life.
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a term that describes chronic lung diseases that cause swelling and blockages of the airways. COPD includes the conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, low oxygen levels, breathlessness, tiredness and a chronic cough with or without mucus.
When in doubt, have it checked out.
The symptoms of COPD are not always the same for each person. Symtoms also can be different from day to day, with some days being better than others. It is important to talk to your health care provider as soon as you notice symptoms ,if you have a family history of genetic COPD to get tested. If COPD is found and treated early, damage to your lungs may be slowed. Check out this list of warning signs from the American Lung Association.
How is COPD diagnosed?
A pulmonary function test (PFT) can help determine if you have COPD and its severity. This test measures how well your lungs are working. These breathing tests are sometimes done in your primary care provider’s office or by a lung specialist called a pulmonologist. PFTs are simple and painless. During this test, you will be asked to blow all of the air out of your lungs into a machine called a spirometer. Your doctor may order additional tests to get a more complete picture of your lung health. These may include chest x-rays, bloodwork, or other useful tests such as the six-minute walk test.
Common treatments for COPD.
Managing your COPD does not have to be puzzling. Just like each person is unique, so is their treatment for COPD. The goal is to make each person feel their best. This can be with treatments such as medications, pulmonary rehabilitation, nutrition and vaccinations.
- Medications: everyone with COPD is different, your provider will choose the correct combination of treatments to manage your condition.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: includes education and exercise to help improve symptoms. Breathing techniques like pursed-lip breathing are used to help you get more oxygen into your body. For example, Belly Breathing exercise is to help you catch your breath and use less energy to breathe.
- Nutrition: food is fuel for your body and eating balanced meals helps you to have the energy you need to stay active and do the work of breathing.
- Vaccinations: staying up to date with your vaccinations is key to staying healthy. They provide important protection that your body needs to combat disease.
There are no silly questions.
It is normal to have many different feelings about your COPD journey. Having a good support system is important. Talk to your friends and family. Join a local support group. Remember, your health care team is one of the best resources that you have. If you or your loved one need a little extra support, talk to your medical provider and they can refer you to a counselor or other professional to help.