Written by Be Smoke Free coach, Karolina Ayers
What is COPD?
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and is associated with a long-term exposure to harmful substances such as cigarette smoke. The airways become inflamed, narrower, or blocked (by the mucus) and as a result a person will find it difficult to breathe out. The breathing problems usually get worse gradually and can really limit normal activities and decrease quality of life.
Spirometry – this is a test which measures how much and how quickly a person can forcibly exhale air. Based on its results COPD can be diagnosed.
Exacerbation – also known as a flare-up, it describes a situation when COPD symptoms become particularly severe (this can be triggered by infection) and it can even take up to a few weeks or months to recover.
Smoking – seen as a primary cause of COPD (either active smoking or second–hand smoke). Chemicals in the smoke damage the tissue of the lungs and airways causing inflammation and a consequent narrowing of the airways. Smoking cessation can reduce symptoms of COPD and improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
Up to 25% of long-term smokers will go on to develop COPD
Exercise – staying active can help you to improve your breathing, fitness, and quality of life. Do not avoid activities that make you breathless, because you will get out of breath more easily when you’re unfit.
Healthy weight – a balanced diet will help to lose extra weight or maintain healthy weight. If you’re overweight, it will be harder for you to breathe and move around.
Pulmonary rehabilitation – a programme for COPD patients providing education around the illness itself and exercises that are appropriate for and aimed at these patients.
Inhalers –deliver the treatment directly to the lungs as you breathe in. There are different types of inhalers – short-acting, long-acting, and steroid (for flare ups). Patients can also be prescribed other medication like theophylline (reduces the swelling) or mucolytic medicine (thins the mucus).
Weather – symptoms of COPD can get temporary worsen due to weather condition such as hot/ cold weather, humidity, or wind. Knowing the forecast will give you a chance to prepare yourself and your treatment for any short-term deterioration.
Effects on life quality
- Simple physical activities, such as walking up the stairs, may become difficult
- Continuing to work may not be possible
- Social activities (eating out, getting together with friends) may prove challenging and uncomfortable
- Relationships could be affected due to breathlessness and fatigue during sexual activities
- Increased confusion, memory loss and mental health conditions (depression, anxiety – so ask for help when you need it)
- More visits to the emergency room and overnight hospital stays
For help and advice to stop smoking, or how to live with COPD you can join our free Be Smoke Free service.
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