Taking a Deep Breath and a Deeper Look at COPD
As people age, the risk of developing a condition called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, becomes more of a concern. Health becomes compromised and the immune system is less able to defend against common contributing factors. The greatest indicator of COPD is chronic limitation of airflow through the lungs, and usually is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, severe cases of bronchiectasis and chronic asthma also fall into the classification of COPD.
While experiencing shortness of breath may simply be dismissed as part of being in less- than-perfect physical shape or a simple by-product of the aging process, it’s not something that should be overlooked. If that shortness of breath is the result of COPD, lung function can suffer progressive damage that can make it more and more difficult to breathe. Ultimately it can cause other life threatening conditions including cardiovascular disease and major cardiac events.
How’s Your Breath?
Unfortunately, COPD often goes undiagnosed until lung function has diminished by as much as 50 percent. It’s important to recognize the symptoms so proper action can be taken for diagnosis. Most common symptoms include:
- Simple daily tasks can tax the lungs to a point that it causes sufferers to feel exhausted and leave them winded. As a result, the struggle to breathe and fight for oxygen can cause fatigue that lasts throughout the day.
- In the first stages of COPD, more strenuous activities may seem taxing and cause heavy breathing. But as time goes on, COPD, in more advanced stages, causes shortness of breath with shorter, simpler activities.
- Early in its development, COPD causes sporadic coughing fits. Later, however, sufferers will experience chronic coughing. These coughing fits result in the production of sputum or phlegm.
- Tightness in the chest. As COPD becomes more severe, tightness in the chest and wheezing often become issues.
- Changes in weight and appetite. Shortness of breath makes eating difficult. People suffering from COPD often lose their appetites and lose weight as a result.
The most common contributing factors for COPD include:
- History of smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
- Frequent exposure to air pollution – outdoors or indoors. Indoor air pollutants include coal and biomass fuels often used for heat production or cooking.
- Frequent exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Being female. Women face a higher risk in developing COPD.
- Deficiency in Alpha 1 Antitrypsin (AAt), which is a protective protein normally found in the lungs and the bloodstream.
- Regular exposure to occupational dusts and hazardous chemicals.
- Past history of frequently suffering from respiratory infections throughout childhood.
Diagnosis of COPD requires a breathing test called spirometry. This test uses a mouthpiece and tube that is connected to a computer. Lung function is measured as the patient takes a deep breath and then blows into the tube as hard and fast as they are able.
Depending on the cause and the severity of the COPD, treatment options often include:
- Flu shots
- Use of antibiotics
- Protein therapy
- Inhaled glucocorticosteroids
- Pulmonary rehab
- Oxygen supplementation
- Pneumococcal vaccines
Breathe easier with better health! Consult with the team of senior care experts at Watermark of Gulf Breeze Assisted Living & Memory Care to learn more about the services we offer today!