Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
A COMMON condition affecting more than 440,000 people in Ireland, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both.
COPD is an illness that restricts airflow, making it difficult to empty air from the lungs. This airflow obstruction can lead to shortness of breath and feelings of tiredness as one has to work harder to breathe. It is a progressive illness; meaning that it has several stages of severity. COPD is divided into mild, moderate and severe groups, depending on the level of airflow obstruction.
COPD is usually caused by smoking and symptoms, such as cough and breathlessness, are related to airflow obstruction. The most important treatment is to stop smoking. Inhalers are commonly used to ease symptoms. Other treatments such as steroids, antibiotics, oxygen, and mucus-thinning medicines are prescribed in more severe cases or during a flare-up of symptoms.
Asthma and COPD cause similar symptoms. However, they are very different diseases.
* COPD causes permanent damage to the airways.
* COPD is more likely to cause a chronic cough with phlegm.
* COPD is rare before the age of 35, whilst asthma is common in individuals under the age of 35 years.
* With asthma, there is inflammation in the airways which makes the muscles in the airways constrict. This causes the airways to narrow. Symptoms tend to come and go and vary in severity, unlike COPD which persists and continues to become more severe over time.
COPD tends to develop slowly and can be tolerated for many years before the symptoms reach a level that will make the sufferer seek medical advice. If you can answer yes to any four of the questions below, you should con- sult your GP in order to be tested for COPD. * Do you cough every day? * Do you expectorate sputum? * Do you feel breathless? * Do you or did you ever smoke in the past? * Are you or were you exposed to air pollu
tion/fumes/smoke at work? * Is there a family history of lung conditions? * Are you over 35 years of age?
“COPD is usually caused by smoking and symptoms, such as cough and breathlessness, are related to airflow obstruction”
The most common test used to diagnose COPD is spirometry. This test estimates lung volumes by measuring how much air you can blow out into a machine. A pulse oximeter is a device that clips onto fingers in order to measure the heart rate and amount of oxygen in the circulation. Below average levels tend to be found in people who have COPD, especially during an exacerbation of symptoms. A chest X-ray may show signs of COPD and can be used to help exclude other serious conditions. A blood test to outrule anaemia often proves helpful, as anaemia may be the cause of breathlessness.
Although COPD cannot be cured, its prognosis can be dramatically reduced by smoking cessation along with appropriate medications and exercise.
Further information may be obtained from the following website www.livingwithcopd.ie
COPD is an illness that restricts airflow, making it difficult to empty air from the lungs