What you need to know about COPD

Characterized by increasing breathlessness, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a general term that describes specific progressive lung diseases. Aside from non-reversible asthma, COPD also refers to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and some forms of bronchiectasis.

Many people often shrug off the idea of having COPD, thinking that their coughing and breathlessness are just normal signs of aging. The truth is that COPD is actually quite common in the United States, affecting an estimated 30 million people, with half of them unknowingly manifesting symptoms of COPD. This is where early diagnosis of COPD comes into importance.

Looking out for the signs

A person with COPD may not yet notice symptoms during the early stages of the disease, but as soon as they start manifesting, which usually occurs in the more developed stages of the condition, it is important to check with your doctor right away.

For people with chronic bronchitis, daily production of cough and mucus is an evident symptom that goes on for at least three months in a year and occurs for two consecutive years.

Meanwhile, other notable COPD symptoms include shortness of breath especially with physical activity; chest tightness; wheezing; a long-term cough with clear, white, greenish, or yellow mucus; bluish discoloration of the fingernails and lips; frequent respiratory infections; and swelling in the legs, feet, or ankles.

Always be aware of certain episodes called exacerbation, wherein symptoms become worse than usual and persist for more than several days.

Diagnosing COPD

To diagnose COPD, your doctor will assess and evaluate your symptoms, as well as review your complete health history and conduct some tests. People who are usually at risk for such condition are those who have a history of smoking or who are commonly exposed to secondhand smoke and other air pollution, as well as those with family members who are diagnosed with COPD.

If you have symptoms leading to COPD or are at risk of the disease, your doctor may have you tested through spirometry. This simple test is able to determine how well your lungs work.

During the procedure, you will have to blow into the mouthpiece of a device that’s connected to a small machine. This machine will then measure how fast you can blow air and how much air you can let out. Spirometry is usually effective at detecting it before its symptoms start to develop.

Aside from spirometry, your doctor may want to request other tests, such as a chest x-ray or an arterial blood gas test, which measures the amount of oxygen present in your blood, just like what a pulse oximeter does. In the clinical setting, your blood oxygen saturation levels may be measured and monitored using a Nellcor SpO2 device.

Living with COPD

After being diagnosed with any of these diseases, you may face certain changes in your lifestyle. This may be an inevitable part of living with such condition, yet the good news is that it is completely possible to successfully manage your COPD to help you carry on with a good quality of life.

Collaborate with your doctor in creating a management plan that can guide you in meeting your healthcare needs and in keeping track of your medication. This plan will also help you apply proper nutrition and appropriate exercise in your lifestyle. It may even help you cope with your disease in the emotional aspect. In fact, it is easy to find comfort in support groups composed of people who share the same experiences.

Living with these medical conditions may be a challenging feat. Nonetheless, it’s possible with the right medical assistance and moral support.

Article Submitted by Community Writer.

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