Carolyn's Collection

Exacerbation? What's That???
What is an exacerbation?

First of all and exacerbation can also be known as an infection, the miseries, the crud (each state seems to have its own brand of crud)  We have one member that would rather call it a hippopotamus 'cause it makes about as much sense. <g>  But here is what an exacerbation means in the world of COPD.

COPD is a disease that gets worse over time, usually gradually, but sometimes the disease gets suddenly worse, and this is known as an exacerbation. This change may or may not be permanent depending on the severity of the exacerbation and your overall health.

Doctors define an exacerbation as a deterioration in the disease state, characterized by a sudden increase in uncontrolled symptoms, such as severe breathlessness and excess mucus produced with cough.
Some people call an exacerbation a "lung attack".

How do I know if I am having an exacerbation?

When your COPD is under control, your symptoms will be more or less the same from day to day. When you are having an exacerbation, the symptoms will worsen, and these changes are often extremely rapid.

You may not experience all the symptoms listed below, and you may not experience them all at the same time.

You may experience:

>Increased breathlessness


>Chest tightness


>Increased cough, and excessive mucus when you cough

>A change in the color of your mucus


>Excessive sleepiness (as known as somnolence).
This is a sign of carbon dioxide intoxication. It is extremely serious -
and is possibly fatal

>Blue lips or fingernails

Exacerbations can be life-threatening, and you are likely to need immediate medical assistance.

If you have been diagnosed with COPD and you experience confusion or excessive sleepiness, you should seek emergency care immediately. These are signs that the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood are dangerously high, and could be fatal. For this reason, you will need help from a carer, friend, relative or neighbor who can stay with you until you receive medical assistance.

Sometimes (but not always) people are unable to move around or exercise as much as they would like in the few days before an exacerbation. You will probably feel generally unwell and very tired.

Treating an exacerbation

An exacerbation is a very serious event. People who have a lot of exacerbation's usually find that their COPD progresses more rapidly than people who have very few exacerbation's. It is therefore vital to do as much as possible to prevent exacerbations.

Sometimes people have to go into hospital to have their symptoms brought back under control, and their health may be permanently weakened afterwards. Some exacerbations will need treated with antibiotics and/or a prednisone burst and/or a change in your O2 therapy.

The changes that occur during an exacerbation can be life-threatening and will happen quickly. It is vital to seek urgent medical help immediately if you think you are having an exacerbation.

What causes an exacerbation?

Most exacerbation's are caused by infections such as colds, flu or pneumonia. An exacerbation is a sudden acceleration in the course of the disease. Changes that normally occur over a period of months or years will occur over days or weeks. You may not recover completely after an exacerbation, but a lot depends on the severity of it as well.

An exacerbation may advance the stage of disease from early-stage to moderate or from moderate to severe. It is therefore vital that you do everything you can to avoid having an exacerbation.

How can I help prevent an exacerbation?

You can get your annual flu shots and pneumonia shots as needed.

>Avoid large crowds especially with school age children whenever possible.

>Use good sanitary precautions such as hand washing.

>Cover mouth with back of arm instead of hand, this way you don't pass
your germs on to someone else accidently.

>Keep up with your exercise.

>Watch your diet and try to avoid stress.

These are all things that left undone can cause exacerbations.  I know there are other things out there and if you would like to share with us please join us at the COPD-Support Family .

Remember,  Growing old is mandatory but Growing up is optional
And Laughter is still the best Medicine!

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