August is respiratory awareness month which means it’s the season to focus on breathing. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD), which includes COPD, emphysema, and asthma, is more common than you may think. In fact, it ranks as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Read on to learn about what COPD is, the ways you can improve your respiratory health, and breathe easy.
COPD – What Is It?
Standing for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD is a progressive disease effecting the lungs. Healthy lungs are elastic which aid oxygen into the body and push carbon diaoxide out of the body. COPD causes the lungs to lose their elasticity and overexpand, which leaves some air trapped in the lungs on exhale. Tobacco smoking is by far the most important risk factor, accounting for nearly 80% of all cases. According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smokers are 10X more likely to die of COPD than nonsmokers. Exposure to gases, vapors, dust, or fumes at work can also cause COPD. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and infectious diseases can also contribute to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
How It Effects Daily Life
Researchers studied a group of individuals living with COPD and reported that they got short of breath while doing light housework (46%) or washing and dressing (44%). Nearly one-third (32%) got short of breath while talking, while 28% had difficulty breathing while sitting down or lying still.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, chronic coughing, blueness of the lips or fingernail beds, frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy, and swelling of the ankle, feet, or legs.
Intervention & Treatment
Even though early detection cannot reverse the damage already done to the lungs, early intervention and treatment can help slow the progression. It is recommended that patients experiencing a chronic cough and exposure to risk factors (smoking, environmental hazards, and lung infections) be tested for airflow limitation.
If you think you may be suffering from COPD, contact your personal health care provider today.
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