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Health Education Blog

Frequently Asked Questions About COPD

Posted by Staff on June 19, 2017

FAQ in chat bubbleChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is also known as COPD. It is a term that is used to describe a variety of progressive lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, certain forms of bronchiectasis, and non-reversible asthma. Many people don't even realize that they have COPD when it is in the early stages. Later, many people associate their coughing and breathlessness as a normal part of aging. If you have been diagnosed with COPD or if you suspect that you have it, you should know the answers to a few frequently asked questions.

Q: What Causes COPD?

The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Most people who suffer from this disease are long-term smokers. A second common cause is being exposed to lung irritants long-term, such as dust or chemical fumes.

Q: How Can I Prevent COPD?

The best way to prevent COPD is to stop smoking now. When you stop smoking, you can immediately slow down the damage that cigarettes are causing to your lungs. If you quit now, the loss of lung function is slowed to the same rate as a non-smoker.

Another way to prevent COPD is to avoid bad air such as chemical fumes, air pollution, and dust.

Q: What Are the Symptoms of COPD?

The symptoms of COPD are serious and they can make you very uncomfortable. Many people have COPD exacerbation. This is when the symptoms flare up and suddenly get worse. These flare-ups can be very dangerous and often warrant a stay in the hospital. The most common symptoms include:

  • A cough that won't go away

  • Coughing up mucus

  • Extreme shortness of breath, specifically when you exercise.

  • Extreme tightness in the chest.

Q: What Are the Complications of COPD?

According to WebMD, COPD can result in a variety of complications. Some are minor and some are very serious. These complications include:

  • Frequent lung infections such as pneumonia

  • Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).

  • Weight problems. Trouble either gaining weight or losing weight

  • Heart failure

  • Collapsed lung

  • Sleep problems, such as sleep apnea

Q: How is COPD Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you have COPD, there are a variety of tests that would be run to confirm the diagnosis. Some of the tests are absolutely necessary and some would only be performed as needed.

  • The doctor would take a medical history and perform a full exam to get as much information as possible about your lifestyle and your health. 

  • Lung function tests are necessary to measure the amount of air that goes into your lungs and the speed at which it moves out. The LEV test and spirometry are the most common of the lung function tests.

  • A chest x-ray is often performed to be sure that the symptoms are not due to another disease such as lung cancer.

  • An arterial blood gas test is given to measure the amount of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in your blood. This test lets the doctor know if you require oxygen therapy.

  • An EKG may be given to rule out heart problems as the cause of your shortness of breath.

  • A transfer factor for carbon monoxide test will look at your lungs to see how much damage is done. This will give the doctor an idea of how serious your COPD actually is.

Q: How is COPD Treated?

While there is no cure for COPD, the symptoms can be treated. Some of the treatments can be done on your own and other treatments would require the help of a doctor.

  • Quitting smoking is the best thing that you can do to treat your COPD symptoms. As soon as you quit, you should notice a huge difference.

  • According to the COPD Foundation, rehab can be very effective. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help to train your mind, muscles, and heart to get the most out of your lungs that have been damaged by COPD.

  • There are two types of medications that you can take. The long-acting medications will prevent the symptoms from occurring and the short acting medications will relieve them when they do. Some medications are taken orally, however, the most common medications prescribed are inhalers.

  • Oxygen treatment can be done in the hospital or at home to help you get enough oxygen into your lungs.

  • Diet and exercise are necessary treatments as COPD can make your muscles weak and it can cause you to lose weight.

  • COPD can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. You may need an antidepressant to relieve these symptoms.

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Over 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD. If you are suffering from symptoms and you think that COPD may be the cause, you should visit the Orchard Hospital Medical Specialty Center - Your Everyday Health Care Clinic. Orchard Hospital has the doctors and the resources available to diagnose and treat this disease.  

The outpatient AIRE Program (Accessible Intervention and Respiratory Education) at Orchard Hospital is designed to help you gain knowledge of your lung disease, manage your breathing problems and improve your exercise tolerance. In turn, this will help you to achieve your optimal ability to carry out activities of daily living, regain independence and improve your overall quality of life.

The outpatient AIRE program at Orchard Hospital can help you breathe easier and live better.

Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior health care. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.   

Topics: COPD

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