If you watch television, you’ve heard of COPD. You can’t miss those commercials.

But what exactly is it, is it serious and how do you know if you have it?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an inflammatory lung disease that blocks airflow from the lungs. COPD is usually caused by exposure to irritating gases, like cigarette smoke. Basically, it’s hard for people with COPD to breathe. And living with COPD requires constant care.

So how do you know if you have it? Symptoms are difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing that produces mucus. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can lead to COPD. A doctor will need to diagnose COPD by doing a spirometry test that checks how well your lungs work. The patient blows into a mouthpiece and the machine measures how much they can blow out and how fast.

The Facts

So is COPD serious? Yea, it is and the symptoms get worse over time. COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. People with COPD have an increased risk of heart disease or lung cancer. There currently isn’t a cure for COPD, but people who have it can make changes and get treatment to reduce their symptoms and slow the disease.

Smoking causes 85 to 90 percent of COPD cases, so people with COPD need to stop smoking. Genetics and environmental factors are other causes. So staying away from second-hand smoke, air pollution and dust will also help, as will avoiding anything that causes allergies.

Exercising can also help. Patients should slowly increase cardiovascular exercises, like walking or riding a bike, stretching, and strength training with weights.

A healthy diet with limited simple carbohydrates increased complex carbohydrates, and fiber can boost the immune system and slow the disease.

There are also medications that come in inhalers that can help relax the airways and steroids can help when COPD becomes more severe. Doctors can also prescribe supplemental oxygen.

People with COPD need to see their doctors regularly to stay on top of the disease and make sure the doctor is monitoring their progress. Living with COPD can be managed, but it’s up to you! 

By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers

Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas

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