What is it? COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a very important breathing disorder.
Basically, usually because of lifelong, dedicated and unrepentant smoking, your lungs end up burned up, dried and scarred. Thats what makes it so difficult to breathe.
When you look with a microscope at the lungs, the lung tissue looks like a city that has been bombed. It literally looks like a burnt-out shell of a formerly thriving metropolis. Along with cigarette smoke, other lung irritants such as pollution, dust, smog, and industrial chemicals.
COPD is a very important and common cause of
Disability and Death, and is getting more and more common as our population ages.
WHAT YOU EXPERIENCE WITH COPD
COPD symptoms include
Cough, often severe and ongoing
Shortness of breath
Phlegm or crud production in the lungs
The cough in COPD is especially deep and pronounced; thats why it can be known as a
Smokers cough, often very bad in the morning
Some patients even find it difficult to talk or catch their breath even after mild activity. Patients with COPD can often have attacks of shortness of breath and coughing, and often have to go to Emergency departments because of significant
In fact, chest infections in COPD patients can last for several weeks instead of just a few days.
We should also remember that it is never too late to quit smoking, although the earlier you quit the better.
COPD TREATMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
What medications you need depend on how bad your COPD is. Some people are breathless only with exercise; others feel too breathless to even leave the house. To help decide how bad your COPD is, we use a
Breathing test machine called Spirometry.
This actually measures how well you breathe. Based on all these tests and your own history, we decide what is the best combination of medications and interventions.
USE PUFFERS THE RIGHT WAY
It is important that not only be given the puffers that are right for you, but also that you be taught how to use the puffers correctly. This is one of the big challenges that doctors face. We prescribe the right medication, but people are not very skilled at using the puffers and various devices. It is important for a doctor to watch how you use your puffers every so often, as there are always suggestions and ways to improve.
Treatment GOALS for COPD
Treatment goals are focused on:
Improving exercise tolerance
Improving your health
Restoring your Quality of Life
Quitting smoking is important. Getting an
Annual flu shot can help protect at-risk patients from getting seriously ill.
Some patients benefit from Pulmonary Rehabilitation, sort of like aerobics for your lungs. Some will need home oxygen. But most people can do well with prescription medications.
Dr. Shafiq Qaadri is a Toronto family physician and Continuing Medical Education lecturer. www.doctorQ.ca