Friday, November 4, 2011

11/4 COPD Awareness Month

By Diane Forrest, RN

My father's former secretary recently retired and moved out of state to be near her sister.   Her home has not sold yet, and is in my area, so I went to check on it for her.  The yard had been neglected all summer, and was overgrown with grass, weeds and plants.  I contacted her to let her know of the condition and learned that she had developed COPD and emphysema.  This news was very upsetting, but not completely unexpected.  She has been a heavy smoker for years, and despite her diagnosis, continues to smoke.

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a disease in the lungs in which the airways have been narrowed.  This limits the amount of air flow to the lungs and causes shortness of breath.  The number one cause of COPD is smoking; however there are other causes such as cooking with fire, second hand smoke, and exposure to certain fumes and gases in the work place.

Symptoms of COPD include:
  • Cough, with or without mucus
  • Fatigue
  • Many respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse with mild activity
  • Trouble catching one's breathe
  • Wheezing

Testing for COPD is very simple, chest x-rays, and checking breath sounds with a stethoscope are used as well as a machine called a spirometer.  It is a device that you blow into, and it registers the lung capacity. Results for this test is immediate.

There is no cure for COPD, there are medications that may help relieve the symptoms, such as inhalers, steroids and oxygen therapy.  The person must remove the cause to prevent further damage to their lungs.

This is COPD Awareness Month, for further information click here:

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