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COPD Symptoms And Causes You Need To Know

Doctor speaking with patient

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can be a tough diagnosis to swallow. From remembering the acronym to simply trying to catch your breath, it can be overwhelming at first. What started as a simple cough now makes it difficult to breathe. Many questions will arise, such as what exactly does having this disease mean for your health?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

The COPD definition states that it’s a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. COPD is actually more of an encompassing term for a number of progressive diseases relating to the lungs, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, non-reversible asthma, and certain types of bronchiectasis.

In addition, all sufferers experience some type of blockages in their lungs, making it more difficult to breathe. The cause of the blockage may vary depending on which type of COPD you have (e.g., emphysema or bronchitis). However, with proper understanding and management, all you’ll need is a bit more attention and preparation to maintain your quality of life and breathe easier when it comes to daily tasks.

What Are COPD Causes?

The truth is that most sufferers who have the disease were smokers. While not everyone who smokes develops COPD about 90% of sufferers were smokers or are still smoking. People with asthma who smoke increases the risk even more (Trying to quit? Get help).

Other causes include exposure to fumes, dust, chemicals, and other irritants that can be found in certain work environments (e.g., being a firefighter). Genetics also play a role in some cases of COPD, especially when combined with other factors such as smoking.

What Are COPD Symptoms?

Difficulty breathing is the most common symptom, however, there are some other symptoms that develop over time that can be early warning signs. If you experience any of the following COPD symptoms book an appointment with your doctor to rule out this disease and to get on track to finding treatment:

  • Frequent Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest Tightness
  • Feeling Breathless
  • Blueness in Lips (Cyanosis)
  • Frequent Respiratory Infections
  • Swelling in Ankles, Feet, or Legs
  • Lack of Energy
  • Unintentional Weight Loss (In later stages)

If you don’t have COPD but wonder what living with the disease feels likes, try the following exercise. Take a deep breath, then only exhale halfway. Then take another full breath but only exhale halfway again. Continue repeating this pattern and soon you’ll feel breathless as breathing becomes extremely comfortable. Unfortunately, this is what sufferers deal with.

COPD Stages

COPD is a progressive condition that worsens with age over time. In general, there are four stages running from mild to very severe. It may begin with mild breathing discomfort and a chronic cough with phlegm in the beginning,  it will become more difficult to breathe as the condition progresses.

Stage 1 COPD: Mild stage COPD can be difficult to notice. People may be unaware that they have any issues and continue their daily activities with slight breathing limitations. It’s common to experience a cough with phlegm.

Stage 2 COPD: Moderate stage COPD is when people notice more coughing and more mucus production. This is when people generally seek medical attention for breathing limitations.

Stage 3 COPD: The severe stage COPD when lung function continues to decline and breathing becomes increasingly difficult. By this point, COPD symptoms typically interfere with favorite activities and daily tasks. During this stage, people experience more fatigue and difficulty exercising.

Stage 4 COPD: End-stage COPD is very severe and heavily impacts people’s quality of life. Breathing issues may become life-threatening as sufferers have trouble receiving enough oxygen. This can lead to serious health conditions including hypoxia, cyanosis, and more. Oxygen therapy may be prescribed to help you receive the oxygen your body needs.

Some patients may need additional oxygen all the time, and others may only need it during certain times, like when performing more strenuous activities. Using an oxygen concentrator or portable oxygen concentrator can be essential for treatment and may even help you get your quality of life back. You might actually get back to doing the things you love instead of having to miss out.

COPD Treatment

By properly treating COPD or progressive lung conditions that result in difficulty breathing you can live a full, active life. There are various treatment options depending on which stage you’re diagnosed with. The first step involves quitting smoking as it can cause COPD to get much worse.

You may be prescribed medication to take on a regular basis or as needed. These medications or bronchodilators often come with an inhaler or nebulizer and work by relaxing the tissues around your airways to make breathing easier. While inhalers are generally preferred, home nebulizers can be the most effective way to treat flare-ups. However, both options provide patients with rapid relief from dramatic COPD symptom on sets.

Also, you may be prescribed inhalable or oral steroid medications to reduce inflammation.

A high-frequency chest wall oscillation vest will help ease your body’s task of discharging harmful excess secretions from the lungs. The Afflovest is a lightweight, portable option that mimics natural chest physiotherapy and doesn’t require a caregiver or respiratory therapist.

If there isn’t enough oxygen in your blood then you may need supplemental oxygen. There are various oxygen options from home oxygen concentrators, portable concentrators, and various sizes and levels of portability of oxygen cylinders.

Deep Breathing

Another helpful exercise for those living with COPD is to practice deep breathing. A respiratory therapist, Mardi Hayden, recommends finding one of these deep breathing exercises that you really like and practice it daily at the same times each day. As your exercises progress, you can gradually lengthen the amount of time that you do the exercise. Hayden recommends this deep breathing technique for those new to breathing exercises:

  • Pull your elbows back firmly while standing or sitting
  • Take a deep breath
  • Hold the breath for the count of five
  • Exhale slowly and completely
  • Repeat as needed

As with any exercise regimen, it is recommended that you speak with your respiratory therapist or physician before beginning.

COPD Management

COPD is unquestionably a difficult, and life-changing condition, but with proper management and proactive measures, it doesn’t have to rob you or someone you love their life. If someone you know is suffering from COPD, or if you believe you’re at risk, contact your doctor today. You may qualify for your nebulizer at little to no cost to you through insurance.

To find out if you qualify for your equipment through insurance, simply complete Aeroflow Healthcare’s Qualify Through Insurance form. Once submitted, our Patient Care Representative will work closely with your healthcare provider and insurance company to have your treatment options delivered to your home.

By partnering with an experienced provider like Aeroflow Healthcare, you can be fully assured of access to all of the latest COPD treatment options, as well as easy delivery, exceptional service, and 24-hour support.

Information provided on the Aeroflow Health blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care. Aeroflow Health recommends consulting a doctor if you are experiencing medical issues or concerns.


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