Breathing is a certain function of our body that just comes naturally for everyone—except those with COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a breathing disorder that affects 11 million people in the United States. COPD is a common lung condition that makes it difficult to get air in and out of the lungs. Unlike healthy people, breathing for people with COPD becomes a top priority.
If untreated well, COPD can hinder one from living an active and normal lifestyle; it can even worsen to life-threatening levels. But while the disease cannot be reversed, it can be treated and controlled to increase one’s comfort.
Once you have been diagnosed with COPD, your doctor will discuss with you the best treatment options available considering the severity of your disease. A common medication that should be prescribed are bronchodilators, which work by allowing your bronchial muscles to relax, thereby opening them wider. Doing so clears the airways and allows one to breathe much easier.
While there are two types of bronchodilators—the short-acting and the long-acting—they fall into different categories depending on how they function. These categories include anticholinergic, beta2-agonist, steroid or glucocorticosteroid, theophylline, and mucolytic. Your doctor may prescribe combinations of these bronchodilators to increase their effectivity.
Once your COPD is classified as severe, your blood oxygen levels could fall into below normal levels, which would then require a prescription for supplemental oxygen from your doctor. When the lungs do not function well enough to provide adequate oxygen, supplemental oxygen can greatly maintain the body’s normal function and increase both physical and mental strength.
In the clinical set-up, your healthcare provider might use a pulse oximeter or a Welch Allyn SpO2 machine to measure and monitor your blood oxygen levels. Supplemental oxygen may either be given only when you’re sleeping or exercising, or in most cases, throughout the day except during certain activities like bathing. Usually, you will be required to resume taking your medications even while you’re on oxygen therapy.
It is more important than ever to quit smoking for people who are diagnosed with COPD. Smoking does not only trigger COPD flare-ups, but it is also the leading cause of the condition. COPD patients already find it hard to breathe with injured lungs, and smoking makes breathing worse by damaging the airways up to the air sacs of the lungs.
If you are a chronic smoker, quitting can be a difficult feat. Let your healthcare provider help you out. Your doctor might be able to suggest a way or two on how to successfully cut down the habit, may it be in the form of medicines, nicotine substitutes, and counseling classes and support groups. You may not be able to succeed at first, but the trick is to try and try until you do.
People with severe COPD may find it difficult to eat well because of the symptoms of their condition. This could lead to unintended weight loss, especially in those with a more advanced stage of the lung disease. When one is not eating enough, he is not only heading for malnutrition but also for a worsening of COPD symptoms and even a likelihood of infection.
To make sure you get enough number of calories, try to eat in small, frequent servings. Taking a multivitamin daily and getting nutritional supplements are also good sources of extra calories. It is also advisable to rest before meals to avoid being short of breath when eating. COPD patients should never ignore getting enough nutrition more than ever.
With the various treatment options available, it is completely possible for people with COPD to be able to breathe easier and to even enjoy a more active lifestyle.