If you or someone you know has COPD, there are plenty of things you will need to know and remember to help you deal with this disease. COPD doesn't have to rule your life, but if you know the facts, you can use these to make your quality of life better.
What Caused Your COPD
Getting to the bottom of what caused your COPD will help you remove yourself from these factors. Smoking tobacco is the number one cause, with over 80% of COPD cases being caused by smoking. The second main cause of COPD is air pollution, such as the kind in big cities with a lot of smog and toxins in the air. The third and most rare cause, is a genetic defect that causes only 1% of all known COPD cases worldwide.
What is Happening to Your Lungs
If you have COPD, your lungs have become partially blocked by mucus and swelling in the airways, or bronchiole tubes. The damage done to your lungs by the causes of COPD (see above) makes your airways irritated and inflamed. This inflammation is made worse by catching a cold, or other common respiratory sicknesses. When they get worse, this is called an exacerbation.
Your lungs also contain tiny air sacs at the ends of the many little bronchiole tubs. These sacks make it possible to transfer oxygen to your bloodstream, and for your bloodstream to put carbon dioxide back into your lungs, so you can breathe it out. If you have COPD, these sacks, called alveoli, have been damaged and can no longer exchange gases from your lungs to the rest of your body.
How Your Doctor Diagnosed You
Your doctor made your diagnosis through an examination and a series of tests. One of these tests was a spirometery test, which measures your lung function. If your lung function is below a certain range, this is an indication that you have COPD. There's another test called an arterial blood gas test, which shows how much oxygen and carbon dioxide are in your blood. If the numbers are in a certain range, it can indicate COPD. Your doctor will also be able to make a diagnosis and rule out other conditions with lung x-rays.
Treatments for COPD
The treatments for COPD usually include inhalers, which contain steroids and bronchodilators. You might be given oral medications to help control your symptoms. If your blood oxygen level is very low, you would likely be prescribed use of oxygen therapy, in which case you would use oxygen tanks or an oxygen concentrator.
Complications Caused by COPD
You can suffer from depression if you have COPD, or anxiety due to the severity and lower quality of life. You're more susceptible to lung cancer, as well. You are also more prone to respiratory infections, high blood pressure and other serious cardiovascular problems.
What You Can Do to Stay Healthy and Prevent Complications
Remove yourself from lung irritants. That means it's in your best interest to stop smoking as soon as possible, and stay away from other people while they smoke. You need to keep up on your medications and visit your doctor twice a year. Get some light exercise a few times a week, such as taking a walk around the block, or walk up and down the stairs a few times. Do some breathing exercises, get enough sleep, and eat foods that are high in protein, vitamins and antioxidants.
When You Should Seek Help
You will need to call an ambulance right away if you find yourself having a hard time walking or talking, if your heart is beating irregularly, your lips or fingernails have taken on a bluish tint, or if you're having trouble breathing after you've taken your medicines.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.