Chronic Ob­struc­tive Pul­monary Dis­ease

Bray People - - LIFESTYLE -

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.

SYMP­TOMS

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”

DI­AG­NO­SIS

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.

PROG­NO­SIS

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

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