What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Understanding Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Passive smoker/exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exposure to irritants such as fuel, smoke or dust
- Family history of COPD
- Air pollution
Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Shortness of breath especially experienced after exercise
- Mild cough
- Recurrent cough
- Need to clear throat often
- Wheezing sound that occurs during breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- A cough that refuses to go away even with medications
- Chronic productive/nonproductive cough with clear, white, yellow or greenish sputum
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
- Frequently prone to infections
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swelling in the ankles, legs or feet
Diagnosing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Test to confirm Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Lung (pulmonary) function tests. Pulmonary function tests measure the amount of air you can inhale and exhale. And if your lungs are delivering enough oxygen to your blood.
Spirometry test. You are going to blow into a large tube connected to a small machine called a spirometer. This machine measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast you can blow the air out of your lungs. A Spirometry can detect COPD even before you have symptoms of the disease. It can also track the progression of the disease and to watch how well treatment is working.
Chest X-ray. This can show emphysema, one of the main causes of COPD. An X-ray can also rule out other lung problems or heart failure.
CT scan. A scan can help detect emphysema and help determine if you might benefit from surgery for COPD. CT scans can also screen for lung cancer.
Arterial blood gas analysis. This blood test measures how well your lungs are bringing oxygen into your blood. Also to show how well your lungs remove carbon dioxide.
Laboratory tests. These tests are not used to diagnose COPD. But they are to determine the cause of your symptoms or rule out other conditions. This test may help if you have a family history of COPD and develop COPD at a young age, such as under age 45.
Tips for caregivers to manage your loved one with COPD
By educating yourself about COPD, you would be in a better position to help your loved one live the disease. Understanding the symptoms, its treatment regime and what all happens in COPD. This can help you with better caregiving strategies.
Certain lifestyle changes become imperative. since we know that COPD damages or weakens the lungs of your loved ones in the long run. As a caregiver, you can make your loved one follow the various lifestyle changes.
Stop smoking is a must
Cigarette smoke will further damage the lungs. You must encourage as well as help your loved ones quit smoking.
Avoid chemical fumes and irritants
Prevent your loved ones from exposure to chemical fumes, dust, and air pollution. These are lung irritants, which can further aggravate the disease.
Exercise is your way to fit lungs
COPD patients are also expected to practice mild exercises daily. Breathing exercises are a great way to slowly bring back the lung’s lost capacity. So, your role as a caregiver would be to ensure that your loved ones practice at least 15 – 20 minutes of mild exercise.
A nutritious diet is a must
Ensure that your loved one gets their daily dose of a nutritious diet. Avoid all processed foods as much as possible. These have lots of salt, which increases the chances of water retention. Patients with COPD can develop water retention; they would experience more breathing-related difficulties. Constipation is one of the major issues in elderly. And the condition can worsen in people who are also suffering from COPD. Therefore, it would be best to avoid simple carbohydrates. And focus more on high fiber foods to avoid constipation and also to keep their gut in a healthy state. A balanced diet paves way for a better immunity, which helps in warding off infections.
Take medications on time
Do not forget to give your loved ones their medications on time. With COPD, it becomes extremely important to give them their medications on time. Also, keep their inhalers handy. So that they can quickly grab these whenever they feel shortness of breath. This will happen often.
Prepare for emergencies
Being prepared for emergencies can help save many lives. Keep a close watch on the nature of symptoms of your loved ones. A sudden change in any symptoms or a sudden onset of shortness of breath. This is when breathing refuses to ease even with inhalers. Treat this as an emergency and contact a doctor immediately.