Do you know what health condition kills more people than Alzheimer’s every year? Strokes? Ischemic heart disease? Conditions that affect newborns? If you answered with one of these, you are not wrong. But today, we would like to shed light on another one which usually gets left in the dark: COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a disease group that causes airflow to be blocked. COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide and has caused 3.23 million deaths in only 2019.
COPD symptoms may include difficulty in breathing, coughing, mucus (sputum) production and wheezing. Patients have an increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.
Despite this, it is a common, preventable and treatable disease. There are many ways for managing COPD successfully.
COPD does not have a cure as of yet, but to slow the symptoms from progressing and reduce the risk of flare-ups happening, early diagnosis and treatment are important. Fortunately, patients can take some measures to help control COPD.
Not being exposed to harmful substances plays a big role, so habits such as smoking are highly discouraged for the patients, while regular exercise is recommended.
Keeping the airways clean is another way by which one of the symptoms, mucus build-up, can be improved. To do this, drinking a lot of water and using a humidifier would be helpful.
What can be done in respect of medical approach?
In terms of medication, vaccines are crucial. Patients may consider getting the vaccines against pneumonia, influenza and coronavirus. Besides this, inhaled medications can also be used to reduce flare-ups and lessen the symptoms.
It is critical for COPD patients to protect their overall health as well. A cold or another respiratory condition has the potential to become life-threatening when accompanying COPD. Therefore measures such as frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowds during the cold and flu seasons (especially now, because of COVID) should be taken as well.
Another vital aspect of managing COPD is to have an action plan. In essence, this means that the patient knows how and when they will take their medication, when they should contact their doctor and when to get emergency care.
Overall, COPD is a disease that progresses silently and may become fatal if not managed and treated correctly. It also affects a great deal of the population. So, the best course of action is not to take it lightly and be mindful of the risk factors. Since it is preventable, being proactive in this matter may save a lot of lives. Though, even in the cases the prevention methods fail, there is no need to fall into despair. COPD is easily manageable with the help from healthcare professionals and diligent effort to make better lifestyle choices.
- “Coronary Heart Disease”, United Kingdom National Health Service, 2020.
- “What is COPD?”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “The top 10 causes of death”, World Health Organization, 2020.
- “COPD: Symptoms and Causes”, Mayo Clinic, 2020.
- “Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”, Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung, Gold Report 2021, pp. 40–46, Chapter 3: Evidence supporting prevention and maintenance therapy.
- “COPD: Diagnosis and Treatment”, Mayo Clinic, 2020.
- “Protecting Your Lungs”, American Lung Association, 2020.
- “COPD Management Tools”, American Lung Association, 2021.