Carolyn's Collection

What Is COPD ?
The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, an increased effort to breathe, heaviness or a 'need for air', excessive mucous, and a chronic cough. Some people feel they are gasping for breath. These symptoms will get worse when exercising, when you have a respiratory infection or during an exacerbation-periods of time when there is a sudden increase in symptoms and the disease is worse.

COPD affects your ability to breathe. It is a progressive disease, which means that COPD gets worse over time and may lead to death. This means that, over time, the ability to breathe is affected, and because of this, daily activities may become more difficult as the disease worsens.

It is also known by many alternative names, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive bronchitis, chronic airflow limitation, chronic airflow obstruction, chronic airways obstruction, chronic obstructive airways disease, chronic obstructive lung disease, non-reversible obstructive airways disease.

You may recognize some of these symptoms. Some of us have all of them, some have just one or two. Any mixture of symptoms is possible.

> The airways thicken and loose their elasticity, which means they cannot widen when more air is required in the lungs. Because of this breathing can be more difficult, particularly when you exercise.

> The airways also produce excessive mucus. The body can have difficulty clearing this mucus. You may cough more and bring up more mucus.

> Because of these changes, the lungs are more likely to become infected with bacteria or viruses. You will be more vulnerable to the effects of infections, which may last longer and be more serious.

> You may become extremely fatigued and easily exhausted when doing any physical activity. In addition to becoming breathless, you may find that you are unusually tired or sleepy, and if there is a severe shortage of oxygen in your body your lips and fingertips may turn from pink to blue. These are very serious signs that the levels of carbon dioxide in your body are dangerously high

COPD can also destroy the tiny air sacks where oxygen dissolves into the blood, so breathing becomes more difficult. This is responsible for you getting out of breath easily

The lungs and respiratory system will attempt to repair themselves from this damage, and the body produces what doctors call an 'inflammatory response'. The tissues in the lungs will become red and swollen, and cells in the blood that protect against infection will accumulate in the lungs. This is another aspect of COPD that will make it more difficult for your lungs to work efficiently, and is responsible for making you feel out of breath

Finally, for reasons that are not entirely clear, people with COPD may be malnourished and lose weight which could be a cause for concern. Proper nutrition is very important in maintaining overall health, or the reverse is also true. You may gain weight because of your Meds and not knowing how to work with them right.
I remember when I was first dx'd (diagnosed), I had no idea what COPD was and I imagine some of you are the same. So I put together what I hope is an easily understandable explanation.
Smoking is the most common cause of COPD. The disease is most common in people over 40 years of age. COPD is not a disease that affects children.Being exposed intensively or for a prolonged period to certain dusts and chemicals, or pollution, can also increase your risks of getting COPD, and can make the disease worse if you already have it. Finally, there is a group of people who have a rare hereditary disorder that makes them more susceptible to COPD. These people do not produce the enzyme alpha-1 antitrypsin, which helps break down mucus in the airways.
COPD is an extremely common disease. Worldwide, around 600 million people suffer from COPD. It is the fifth leading cause of death in Europe, and experts estimate that by 2020 COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide.
The symptoms of COPD should not be ignored particularly if you are a current or ex-smoker because the sooner you start treatment, the better the results of this treatment may be.The good news is that the symptoms are relatively simple to recognize. If you answer these questions, it will help you find out whether you may have COPD.

1.Do you cough a lot especially that deep hacking cough?

2.Do you bring up a lot of mucus most days? Or choke on it when you can't bring it up?

3. Do you get out of breath more easily than other people your age?

4. Are you a current smoker or an ex-smoker?

If you have answered YES to 3 or more of these questions, ask your doctor if you might have COPD and should have a simple breathing test called spirometry. If COPD is found early, there are steps you can take to prevent further lung damage and make you feel better!
There is a lot you can do to help yourself, and to potentially slow the progression of the disease -
>Stop smoking
> Follow all your Doctors advice including taking your medication as instructed.
>Don't under-estimate your symptoms Go to the doctor if your breathing or coughing gets worse
>Have regular check-ups at the doctor.
> Do all you can to prevent infections.
>Stay positive and active-and make sure you do regular physical exercise.

Please visit the COPD- Support, Inc. Family of Support Programs

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