COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a chronic lung disease which makes breathing difficult. Although COPD is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, it is often manageable with lifestyle changes.
COPD tends to worsen over time. As the disease progresses, breathing becomes more and more difficult because your airways become narrower. Therefore, less air is able to pass into your lungs in a single breath. There are several reasons for the reduction in air flow:
. An excessive amount of mucus begins to block the airway.
. The airway, itself becomes inflamed and thickens allowing less air to move through.
. The elasticity of the airway and air sacs diminishes.
. Lung tissue may be compromised due to environmental pathogens such as tobacco smoke or chemical inhalation.
The less oxygen your body takes in, the less oxygen gets to your tissues and organs. That makes it more difficult for your body to rid itself of carbon dioxide. The excess of carbon dioxide and lack of oxygen is what makes it hard to breathe. The result is often fatigue and a chronic cough as well as increased respiratory infections.
COPD affects nearly every facet of a person's life. It can limit your social activities as well as your ability to work. It can also cause sleep disturbances and even affect your mental and emotional well-being. In addition to physical repercussions, those affected may find themselves dealing with depression and anxiety as well.
If you suffer from COPD, one of the best things you can do is to avoid anything which could trigger a flare-up. The most common triggers are cigarette smoke, dust, chemical fumes, and pollution.
Because the lungs of a person with COPD are already compromised, it is important to protect yourself from infections and viruses. To reduce your chances of getting sick, try the following:
. Minimize time spent around crowds in the cold and flu season.
. Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
. Brush your teeth regularly and practice good oral hygiene. This will decrease the level of bacteria in your mouth which can lead to infection.
. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
. Get your annual flu and pneumonia vaccine.
. Disinfect common surfaces such as door handles, light switches, and phones on a regular basis.
The lungs of a COPD sufferer are already vulnerable. That's why avoiding exposure to triggers and decreasing the risk of infections are two of the most important things you can do to increase your quality of life and manage your COPD.
By North Jersey Pulmonary Associates
December 9, 2019