Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a name given to a group of lung diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis that block airflow and make breathing difficult. Most people with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, although the severity of each condition may be different.
COPD is the result of damage to the lungs from smoking cigarettes or by breathing in second-hand smoke or other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dusts. Symptoms of COPD include frequent coughing or wheezing, excess phlegm or mucus production, shortness of breath, chest tightness, or trouble taking deep breaths.
“These symptoms can often be mistaken for allergies or the start of a cold, so people may ignore them. The quicker we can diagnose it, the faster we can consider treatment options to minimize further damage and restore quality of life,” said ACMC Pulmonologist Sanjay Srivastava, MD.
Pulmonologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the lungs and respiratory tract. They can diagnose COPD with a breathing test that measures lung function, along with diagnostic images of the lungs and airways.
COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities. Severe COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, cooking, or taking care of yourself.
COPD is also a major cause of disability, and it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Women are at greater risk of dying from COPD than men. Ashtabula County ranks higher than the state average for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Dr. Srivastava said there are several treatment options including breathing exercises, medication, and lifestyle changes to minimize your health risk.
“The breathing exercises can improve a person's lung capacity and improve the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide,” he said. “Patients also benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, which involves physician-developed exercises and education about nutritional to lessen COPD symptoms.”
Dr. Srivastava also said that prescribed medication can alleviate symptoms. However, the key to holding off further lung damage is to make lifestyle changes immediately, especially by avoiding tobacco smoke or other harmful pollutants at home or at work. People with COPD should also be immunized against flu and pneumonia, as well as minimize their exposure to those with infectious respiratory viruses such as influenza.
There is no cure for COPD, and there is no way to reverse the damage to the lungs. However, treatments and lifestyle changes can slow the progression of COPD, as well as help you feel better and stay more active.