3-step Guide to Manage Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

3-step Guide to Manage Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. The limitation in the airflow occurs as the airways are obstructed and narrowed. The obstruction particularly results in difficulty to expel air out of the lungs. 

 

#1 Make the Diagnosis and Start Treatment

Diagnosis

The first step to manage COPD is to diagnose COPD. It is essential that close attention is paid if symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, chronic cough, lack of energy, wheezing and swelling of Feet, ankles and legs prevail. 

After closely examining the symptoms, investigations need to be done in order to diagnose COPD. There are numerous tests available to diagnose COPD as follows.

Spirometry

This is the most common test that is used to diagnose COPD. This is also known as a Pulmonary Function test(PFT). A device called a  spirometer which has a mouth-piece hooked up to an electronic machine is used to conduct this test. This test measure the amount of air you can inhale and exhale.

Chest X-ray/ CT Scan

These tests may show features of air trapping, thickened bronchial walls and emphysema.

Microbiological investigations

Most COPD exacerbations are caused by viruses and bacteria. However, people with COPD are also at risk of lung infection with mycobacteria and fungi.

Arterial blood gas analysis

This blood test determines how well the lungs are able to deliver oxygen to your blood while also eliminating carbon dioxide.

 

Treatments for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

COPD is a progressive disease that gets worse over time if no timely interventions are in place. Although there is no cure for COPD, the condition is manageable in order to achieve commendable symptom control and quality of life.

Hence, the latter part of the first step of managing COPD includes proper treatment. There are various methods of treatment for COPD as follows.

 

Inhaler therapy

Short-acting bronchodilator inhalers offer relief of chest tightness and breathlessness to people with COPD. Bronchodilators are medicines that make breathing easier by relaxing and widening the airways that have been narrowed due to the disease.

Rescue anti-inflammatory treatment

This is a treatment that is used when the disease is exacerbated. Corticosteroids which are steroid hormones are given in order to control further exacerbation.

Rescue antibiotic therapy

If it is diagnosed that the exacerbation of COPD is due to bacteria, antibiotics can be prescribed. However, this should be done alongside corticosteroid treatment.

Chest physiotherapy

External mechanical procedures such as chest percussion, postural drainage, and vibration are used in chest physiotherapy. This helps in airway secretion mobilization and clearance. This is mainly for people with thick, persistent, profuse, or loculated secretions who cannot get rid of them with their cough.

Vaccination 

COPD exacerbations, also known as flare-ups, are caused mostly by respiratory viruses and bacteria, which produce increased inflammation and chest infections. Therefore, by gaining immunity against influenza (flu), and pneumococcal disease this will reduce frequency of exacerbations.

Oxygen treatment

If a COPD patient has low blood oxygen levels, it is recommended to take long-term oxygen therapy. This is mostly used to treat or prevent right-sided heart failure. It has the potential to help the person live a  longer life.

Apart from that some people require ambulatory oxygen to engage in day-to-day activities. 

 

#2 Quit smoking

Smoking is recognised as the most important causative factor of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can also irritate the lungs and contribute to COPD.

Smoking causes inflammation in the lungs due to the toxic compounds found in smoke. As a result, the Lung tissue becomes thickened due to the inflammation caused. Hence, COPD symptoms will arise as bronchioles have thickened and impede airflow when inhaling and exhaling. It will further result in a sensation of feeling short of breath and weary as a result of the oxygen deprivation.

Therefore, quitting smoking is an ideal approach to manage and avert further exacerbation of COPD and accelerated lung function decline. Even though it is hard to quit smoking , the following tips will aid eventual quitting of smoking.

 

Tips to Quit smoking

Nicotine is the key addictive in Cigarettes. When a person makes efforts to quit smoking, they are likely to have withdrawal symptoms due to the physical dependence on the addictive substance.

The withdrawal symptoms are mood swings, insomnia, difficulty in concentrating , nausea and intense cravings. Consequently, to quit smoking and manage withdrawal symptoms, the following tips will be useful.

Avoid triggers

Urges for smoking result as a behavioural pattern during certain situations that trigger the need for smoking. In this method, initially tracking situations, gatherings, feelings that caused an extra urge to smoke should be done. Then, making tough decisions to keep away from them till the addiction to smoking goes away is recommended to achieve viable results.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

This invades the intense craving for nicotine, which is the main ingredient in cigarettes. Consulting a doctor and prescribing Nicotine Replacement therapy will aid smoking cessation. Nicotine replacement therapy includes the below options.

  • Over-the-counter nicotine patches, gum and lozenges
  • Prescription nicotine in a nasal spray or inhaler
  • Non-nicotine stop-smoking medications to combat intense cravings.

Chew non-tobacco snacks

Using snacks as a substitute comes in handy to fight cravings for tobacco. Chewing sugarless candy, gum, nuts, seeds, vegetables such as carrots, celery would keep them busy, putting down the awareness of the need to smoke.

Increase Physical activities

Changing lifestyle patterns make a great impact in quitting smoking as a behavioural change shifts the mindset to a considerable extent. Therefore, increasing physical engagements such as doing exercises, cleaning, gardening will have an increased effect on physical activities and help relieve the urge to smoke.

 

#3 Pulmonary rehabilitation for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

The third and the final step in managing COPD is Pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a holistic approach that focuses on the individual patient and involves fitness training, education, and behavior modification. It has been found to help persons with chronic respiratory disease improve their physical and mental health, as well as encourage long-term adherence to health-promoting practices. They include the following focus areas:

  • Practising breathing Techniques
  • Continuous Exercising
  • Nutrition
  • Relaxing
  • Support on an emotional level as well as in a collective setting
  • Educating on the medicines and  COPD strategies 

Pulmonary rehabilitation, as described above involves encouraging self-control and self-management in daily activities, improving physical fitness and exercise performance Improving mental and emotional health.

People with chronic lung disorders such as COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis can benefit massively from this process. Pulmonary rehabilitation aims to reduce respiratory symptoms and problems, by improving quality of life. 

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