How to Control COPD

Did you know that COPD is a serious pulmonary disorder that, when not controlled, can be deadly? In fact, COPD is the third leading cause of death by disease in the United States. At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine in Algonquin, Illinois, we offer comprehensive diagnostics and treatment for pulmonary disorders, including COPD. 

Led by Dennis Kellar, MD, and Madhu Gundavaram, MD, our team of providers evaluates your symptoms to determine the cause of your breathing trouble. If COPD is the root cause of your symptoms, we can help you keep it under control.  

We also believe in patient education and want you to be in the driver’s seat of your health. To that end, we’ve put together this guide to help you better understand COPD and how to control it.

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, isn’t one disease. It actually refers to a group of chronic diseases of the lungs. COPD causes chronic inflammation, which in turn obstructs your airflow, making it difficult to breathe.

The top cause of COPD is smoking, but some nonsmokers can also develop COPD. Risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to air pollution, working in fields that involve exposure to fumes or particles, and having had chronic infections. 

Warning signs and symptoms of COPD include:

As COPD develops, additional symptoms can arise. These later symptoms can include a chronic cough with mucus, wheezing, swelling in your legs and feet, a blue tinge in your lips or fingernails (cyanosis), and losing weight.   

How can I control my COPD?

Your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine will provide a customized treatment plan that includes personalized lifestyle tips, but you can also implement these general guidelines to help manage your COPD:

1. Quit smoking

Quitting nicotine is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and it’s a key component of managing COPD. If you’re struggling to quit smoking, there are many options that can help, including medications, self-help books, counseling, group programs, and nicotine replacement therapy. 

2. Eat well and exercise

Your overall health plays an important role in managing your COPD. To stay healthy, it’s important to eat right and exercise regularly. Be sure to eat a diet based on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Exercise can help your lungs and body stay healthy, but be sure to talk to your provider before starting an exercise routine. Start slowly and use a step tracker to gradually increase your daily steps, and incorporate muscle-building exercises to strengthen your muscles. 

3. Practice good sleep hygiene

Rest and sleep are especially important for people with COPD. Unfortunately, the difficulty with breathing COPD causes can make sleep a challenge. Your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine can give you customized sleeping tips, but here are techniques to try to improve your sleep:

4. Use medication and oxygen as directed

Keep your COPD under control by taking any prescribed medications as directed. If you use oxygen therapy, be sure to follow the directions you were given, and use the oxygen to help you rest, sleep, and get through any activities. 

5. Prevent lung infections

If you have COPD, you’re at an increased risk of developing lung infections. Do what you can to prevent getting a lung infection by getting your annual flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine every 5-7 years.

You’ll also want to practice good hygiene and wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of infections and germs. Keep any breathing equipment clean, and be sure to stay away from crowds and people with infections. 

6. Know when to seek professional help

If you experience an increase in your wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath, or if you notice an increase in the amount of or a change in the color of mucus, call and schedule an appointment. You should also seek medical help for a fever over 101 degrees, a sudden change in weight, or if you’re experiencing dizziness, vision problems, confusion, or headaches. 

To learn more about controlling your COPD, book an appointment online or over the phone with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine today. You can also try our TELEMEDICINE services and meet with us from the comfort of your own home.

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