If you are no longer able to complete normal, daily activities without experiencing shortness of breath, it isn’t just a normal part of aging – it could be something more serious such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It could also be chronic bronchitis or emphysema – diseases which make it difficult to breathe.
While there is no cure, the disease is treatable. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, it’s important to tell your physician, especially if you are a current or past smoker. It can be difficult to tell if you have COPD because the symptoms develop slowly and are often similar to other conditions affecting the lungs.
Since COPD is a progressive lung disease, symptoms typically worsen over time. Often, those suffering do not seek help until their symptoms impact their lifestyle. Early detection is key to successfully treating COPD.
According to the American Lung Association, COPD symptoms may include:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities (dyspnea)
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
- Producing a lot of mucus (also called phlegm or sputum)
When you’re living with COPD, managing the disease and its symptoms can be both complicated and emotional. However, lifestyle changes and specific treatments can help you feel better and stay more active.
Smoking is the most common cause of COPD. About 85-90 percent of those diagnosed with COPD are smokers. Non-smokers can also get COPD by exposure to pollutants, dust, chemicals and fumes over a long period of time. A small number of people have a rare form of COPD called alpha-A deficiency. It is genetic and caused by the body not producing the protein Alpha-A, which protects the lungs.
Your physician will diagnose you by obtaining a personal history, recording your symptoms and running tests, such as spirometry, chest x-rays or arterial blood gasses.
Once you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, your treatment could include:
- Occupation, physical, respiratory and speech therapy
- Medication management
- Education on healthy lifestyle programs, such as smoke cessation
- Nutrition assessments and education
- Anxiety and pain management
- Pulmonary hygiene strategies
- Individualized exercise program
COPD care is typically managed in coordination with your primary care physician. But at times, if you are managing COPD with other injuries or illnesses, your care can become increasingly complicated. When you have been hospitalized for complications from this or another condition, you may require additional medication management, nutrition support or therapy.
At Kindred, we offer pulmonary care in many different settings, based on your health status. Our interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals will create a treatment plan for your specific needs. We work with you and your loved ones to help:
- Control and alleviate the symptoms of disease
- Improve overall emotional well-being
- Increase abilities for daily activities, such as personal hygiene and hobbies
- Improve quality of life through independence and self-reliance
- Decrease visits to a traditional hospital
- Increase knowledge regarding disease process and its management
- Increase muscle strength and endurance
- Our nursing and respiratory therapy staff provide 24/7 patient-centered care
If you are interested in learning more about the types of care we offer in each setting, please select an option below to learn more.
We are proud to be a partner of the American Lung Association, where you can find many resources on COPD and the resources available to you. You can also learn more from our previous blogs.