What if you struggled to climb a staircase? What if everyday tasks around the house left you feeling out of breath? Such is the life of those living with COPD. But there are ways to cope with this lung disease.
What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a chronic inflammatory lung disease affecting the lungs by obstructing their airflow. COPD impacts the lives of more than 16 million Americans, and it’s one of the leading causes of death.
As you might imagine, COPD is life-changing; those with it are removed from many of the activities they love. Struggling for each breath is only the beginning of the difficulties for those with COPD. One in four adults with COPD is no longer able to work. Playing with children or grandchildren and performing everyday tasks feels overwhelming.
Living with COPD : Symptoms
The symptoms that are associated with COPD include coughing and shortness of breath but also:
- Tightness in your chest
- A need to clear your throat, especially first thing in the morning
- Blueness in your fingertips or fingernails
- A chronic cough with mucus
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Swelling in ankles, feet, or legs
If you begin to notice these symptoms, along with mucus production and the lessened ability to perform the things you love, talk to your doctor immediately.
COPD is caused by breathing toxins. Tobacco smoking is the primary cause: cigarette smokers inhale more than four thousand chemicals with each cigarette. In other cases, COPD may be caused by toxins from burning fuel or heating in poorly ventilated areas or toxins in work settings.
A recent trend, especially with younger people, is the use of e-cigarettes. Scientific evidence has arisen connecting e-cigarette use to COPD and other severe health issues. About 37% of high school seniors reported vaping in 2018, up from 28% the year before. Recently, nearly 200 e-cigarette users — mostly teens and young adults — have developed severe lung disease in 22 states (a number that continues to increase). Talk to your kids about the importance of choosing to not vape. Discuss the consequences, such as living with COPD. We’re happy to help facilitate that discussion with additional information found here.
Living with COPD
COPD can cause many other problems, from respiratory infections and heart problems to lung cancer and high blood pressure. If you have COPD, you must speak to your doctor about your continued care. It is possible to have a good quality of life with COPD. Your care will include:
- Protecting your lungs from irritants. You may stay inside on bad air quality days and wear a mask if working around chemicals, dust, or other irritants.
- Reducing your risk of illness. Get a flu shot every year and take your vitamins. Eat well and take steps such as regular handwashing to prevent colds and other illnesses.
- Stay active. Some exercises will help your breathing and build your strength.
- Get more information from the American Lung Association.
Talk to your Generations Family Practice doctor if you have COPD or think you may have it. We’ll get you started on a management plan.