Breathing is a necessity, an involuntary action that is second nature to anyone with a beating heart. However, when breathing problems persist, every breath can feel like a planned event, pushing yourself to stay alive. Patients with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) struggle with breathing, and if the condition is not treated properly, can ultimately cause premature death.
Did you know that millions of people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? There are 30 million COPD sufferers in the United States, according to recent studies. COPD is a disease, but it is a term used to describe chronic and progressive lung diseases, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases, known as pulmonary disorders, that block airflow in the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. COPD can last for years or be lifelong (chronic or acute). COPD is mainly caused from smoking cigarettes. Other risk factors include a family history of COPD, or an exposure to pollutants, such as dust, chemicals, and fumes.
The two main forms of COPD that people are diagnosed with, are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. As COPD is mainly caused by smoking, emphysema is a result. Emphysema is a lung condition that causes shortness of breath, due to the air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, becoming damaged overtime.
The bronchial tubes are the tubes responsible for carrying air to and from your lungs. Therefore, for people who develop chronic bronchitis, the lining of the bronchial tubes become inflamed, and as a result, they often have a persistent cough that brings up thick, discolored mucus. People with chronic bronchitis, or COPD in general, experience symptoms of wheezing, chest pain and tightness, and shortness of breath for more than three months. These types of COPD have symptoms that often occur simultaneously, which sometimes can make it hard to diagnose.
Over half of people experiencing symptoms of COPD do not even know it. This can be extremely dangerous, and therefore, if you do experience any symptoms, notifying your doctor immediately and getting an early screening can identify COPD before major loss of lung function occurs.
A variety of treatments can help manage the types of COPD, but it is important to note that this condition can’t be cured, as damage to the lungs cannot be reversed. Rescue inhalers and inhaled or oral steroids can help control symptoms and minimize further damage.
At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, we specialize in treating the full spectrum of pulmonary disorders, including COPD. Our skilled providers diagnose your condition based on a thorough evaluation of your symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chronic cough, and chest pain. If further evaluation is needed, we may also order diagnostic tests such as chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests (breathing tests) to aid in diagnosis. The doctor or nurse practitioner will then create a care plan tailored to the needs of your specific respiratory condition.
To learn more about COPD, and if you may have one of the most common forms of the disorder, call Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine to help you breathe easier. Call 8154777350 or request an appointment online today.