More than 16 million Americans live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The chronic condition is a group of diseases that obstruct airflow and cause breathing issues in patients. While there is no cure for COPD, Midwest Regenerative Health and Pain Clinic works with COPD patients to manage pain and treat symptoms.
November is COPD Awareness month, so we want to discuss how our team can help patients with COPD. But first, we want to talk about the chronic disease, symptoms, and causes of COPD, as well as how COPD is diagnosed.
What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic disease that affects a patient’s airflow. Patients with COPD will experience less airflow in and out of their respiratory system.
There are a variety of reasons why airflow becomes restricted in patients with COPD. In healthy adults, the airways are elastic, allowing air sacs to inflate and deflate as they breathe. However, in patients with COPD, the airways may become inflamed or less elastic and can become clogged more easily. With elasticity, it becomes difficult for the respiratory system to move air through the airways. This causes a variety of symptoms in COPD patients.
COPD is actually a group of pulmonary diseases. Patients with COPD will have emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or both. The severity of these diseases will vary by patient.
There are four stages of COPD: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. Symptoms and side effects worsen over time, and patients with very severe COPD have very limited airflow and will likely experience a poor quality of life. In the final stages of COPD, patients often need a portable oxygen tank.
Symptoms and Side Effects of COPD
Patients with COPD will experience numerous symptoms and become at risk of developing other complications. The symptoms of COPD include:
- Coughing and wheezing
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Excess mucus or phlegm
- Tightness in the chest
Adults with COPD will likely experience a variety of other health problems. For example, COPD can cause a weakened immune system, making an individual more at-risk for catching illnesses like influenza or the common cold. Patients may also experience respiratory infections because their bodies can’t fight off these pathogens.
Along with illnesses, patients with COPD may struggle to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. They may also battle other chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and congestive heart failure.
Causes of COPD
There are a variety of things linked to causing COPD. Indoor pollutants and irritants are thought to play the most prominent role in someone developing the condition. Primarily, long-term exposure to cigarette smoke and other types of tobacco smoke are the leading causes of COPD. A genetic condition alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency can also cause COPD, although it is rare. Certain people are more likely to develop COPD, including women, adults older than 65, current or former smokers, and people with a history of asthma.
COPD is easy to diagnose. If a patient is experiencing breathing problems, a simple test will determine if the patient has COPD by testing pulmonary function. This test is called spirometry.
The physician will also evaluate the patient’s medical history and family history, symptoms, and imagery tests, such as chest x-rays or CT scans.
How Is COPD Treated?
While COPD is a chronic condition with no cure, treatments help patients manage the disease and live comfortably for as long as possible. If you have been diagnosed with COPD, there are treatment options that will help you maintain your quality of life. Your physician will evaluate your symptoms, medical history, and overall health to determine the most appropriate COPD treatment plan.
First, you should make any necessary lifestyle changes. Patients who smoke or use tobacco should quit immediately. Continuing this unhealthy habit will only exacerbate the condition and cause it to progress at a quicker rater.
Diet and exercise can also help patients better manage COPD and enhance their overall quality of life. Registered dieticians or nutritionists can provide eating plan that suits your nutritional needs. Physical activity can help strengthen your respiratory system and the muscles that assist in breathing. However, any exercise should be approved by your healthcare provider.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage certain symptoms. For example, bronchodilators can help relax the muscles around the airways, making breathing easier. This mediation is taken through an inhaler. If you develop any type of infection in the lungs, you’ll be prescribed an antibiotic.
Patients with COPD should get flu vaccines since they are at greater risk of having complications if they get sick if they catch the flu.
When COPD progresses to severe stages, patients often require portable oxygen tanks if their blood oxygen levels become too low. Surgery may also be required to remove damaged lung tissue or large air spaces.
Treatment at Midwest Regenerative
In addition to medications and lifestyle changes, patients with COPD can also receive oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. Our pulmonary program at Midwest Regenerative Health and Pain Clinic ensures that each patient receives custom treatment plans to suit their individual needs.
First, a patient will meet with a member of our team for an initial consultation, which involves reviewing symptoms and medical history and performing a physical exam. The examination will help determine the appropriate treatment plan.
Oxygen therapy can help you breathe better and bring more oxygen to the lungs and blood. Pulmonary rehabilitation involves exercise, nutritional counseling, disease management, and psychological counseling. Pulmonary rehabilitation allows patients with COPD to have treatment plans developed just for them.
At MRHPC, we provide regenerative medicine solutions to patients in Johnson County, Kansas. Our goal is to help you live your healthiest life. Contact us to schedule a consultation appointment to learn more about how we can help you, whether you have COPD or another pulmonary condition.