Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an incurable illness. People with COPD eventually experience breathing problems caused by reduced airflow in the lungs. Other conditions that affect the lungs fall under the umbrella term COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Medical experts agree that environmental factors like cigarette smoke and air pollution play a serious role in the development of COPD. When left untreated, this illness can affect all areas of life, making it nearly impossible to socialize, work, or sleep.
Can COPD be reversed? No. But people can take steps to mitigate its effects and live a longer, healthier life. This guide can help readers understand how the disease occurs and what can be done to avoid its life-threatening symptoms.
Causes of COPD
People get COPD by breathing in harmful particles and irritant gasses like coal dust or cigarette smoke. Research indicates that most people who die from COPD in the U.S. use tobacco. It is also possible to develop the condition from excessive exposure to:
- Secondhand smoke
- Smoke from coal and wood-burning stoves
- Workplace dusts and fumes
- Air pollution
A person can also develop the condition because of an alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, which is passed down through genetics.
People with emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or asthma have an increased risk of developing COPD. It’s common for COPD patients to have a combination of mild to severe emphysema and chronic bronchitis at the same time.
Symptoms of COPD
The lungs have tiny air sacs in which oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. COPD ruins the elasticity of your alveoli, which reduces the airflow and leaves some air trapped in your lungs when you exhale. In addition to making it difficult to breathe, it can increase carbon dioxide retention and cause low blood oxygen levels.
The common symptoms of COPD include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Respiratory infections
- A chronic cough, possibly with mucus
- Swelling in ankles, feet or legs
- Unintended weight loss (in later stages)
Diagnosis of COPD
Spirometry is the most common test for diagnosing COPD, and its value is increased because it can detect COPD before symptoms have developed. It measures the amount of air a person can inhale and how quickly it can be exhaled. In addition to a spirometry test, a doctor might perform a chest X-ray, CT scan, arterial blood gas analysis, and blood tests.
Manage Your COPD
COPD cannot be reversed but people can take steps to mitigate its effects and live a longer, healthier life. Consult with Dr. Hubaykah.SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT
Current Treatment Options
People living with COPD can use a variety of techniques to obtain relief from symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, and reduce the chances of complications.
Medications for COPD
Doctor may prescribe any of the following as part of a COPD treatment plan:
- Bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, and combination inhalers
- Oral steroids
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors
Some people with COPD require oxygen supplements. They often can carry an oxygen-dispensing unit around with them. The severity of the COPD determines how often and under what circumstances oxygen is needed.
The counseling, exercise, educational courses, and nutritional advice in these programs can help people continue with or resume everyday activities and improve their quality of life.
Lifestyle Choices for COPD Management
A COPD diagnosis can be overwhelming. After the initial shock, though, it’s important to calmly reflect on your options. Research shows that stress can trigger COPD symptoms. And even though a COPD diagnosis comes with no cure, it is a manageable disease. Here are key actions and lifestyle changes that you can make to live happier and healthier with COPD:
- Quitting smoking. The most important thing a person with COPD can do is not smoke. If you need help quitting smoking, you should speak with a physician about using nicotine replacement items like lozenges or patches.
- Regular exercise and physical activity. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, and swimming, are highly recommended for COPD patients. Patients should consult with their doctors about an exercise regimen. The American Lung Association notes that 20-30 minutes of exercise for three to four days a week may be considered moderate for a person living with COPD.
- Healthy diet and nutrition. People with COPD may benefit from following the American Lung Association’s advice to eat four to six modest meals (or substantial, nutritious snacks) daily to allow a fuller range of motion for the diaphragm.
- Avoiding environmental triggers. COPD patients should avoid environmental triggers at all times. These triggers include cigarette smoking, occupational exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins, certain lotions and sprays, extreme temperature changes, air pollutants, and overly strenuous activities.
Can COPD Progression Be Slowed Down?
Several steps can be taken to slow the progression of COPD. These methods include:
- Early diagnosis and intervention. Ask your doctor for a spirometry test. This method can tell you whether you have COPD even if you have not yet exhibited any symptoms.
- Regular monitoring and follow-up. Follow all of your doctor’s recommendations and take advantage of regular monitoring and follow-up sessions. This will help with tracking complications and cognitive changes, reducing the risk of hospitalization, preventing COPD exacerbations, preserving lung function, and reducing health care costs.
- Managing co-existing conditions. Managing co-existing conditions for COPD can help reduce the frequency of COPD exacerbations and improve your overall health and well-being.
- Diaphragmatic breathing. This breathing exercise increases oxygen saturation, promotes relaxation, and reduces the amount of air trapped in the lungs.
- Pursed-lip breathing. This breathing technique can provide immediate relief for someone experiencing wheezing and shortness of breath.
- Huff coughing. The Huff cough method helps you clear your airways, making it easier to breathe.
- Flutter device. Breathing into a flutter device can loosen lung secretions and mucus so they can be cleared out and breathing can become easier.
- Medical research from 2022 shows that acupuncture can help reduce the production of pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines. By doing this, the body is less likely to experience COPD symptoms thanks to less inflammation in the respiratory tract.
- Yoga and meditation. Some yoga and meditation courses teach breathing techniques and ways to relieve stress.
Stem Cell Therapy and COPD
Research from clinical studies shows that stem cell treatment may encourage the growth of different lung cells and speed up the lung’s natural ability to mend itself. Additionally, stem cell treatment may enhance pulmonary function and may mitigate body-wide inflammatory responses while stimulating the production of many anti-inflammatory molecules.
However, the American Lung Association cautions against participating in “any … unauthorized or unapproved stem cell administrations, unless independent credible, reliable, and objective sources of information are available to substantiate the information and claims being made.” Only a few clinical trials in the United States have received approval from the government.
Living with COPD
Pulmonology is the branch of medicine concerned with the study of the lungs and the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries to the respiratory system. Here at the Florida Medical Clinic’s Department of Pulmonology & Sleep Disorders, we use today’s latest technologies, like pulmonary function testing and CPAP machines, to diagnose and treat all kinds of breathing disorders, including COPD.
Meet Dr. Joseph Hubaykah
Dr. Hubaykah, a pulmonologist at Florida Medical Clinic, is passionate about helping patients to live happy and productive lives. After completing an internship/residency at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, he performed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Saint Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Married with four children, he enjoys being with his family and playing chess in his free time.
Contact Dr. Hubaykah today to schedule an appointment by calling 1-813-788-6540, or request an appointment online.