The Warning Signs of COPD


COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease was once thought of as coal miner's disease or a man's disease but it is now being detected more in women as well. According to the National Hearth Lung and Blood Institue or NHLBI 12 million people have the disease and as many more may not be aware that they have the early stages.

If the disease is detected early lung damage can be slowed down or even stopped. Educating yourself and knowing the symptoms and treatment options can help you save your own life or that of a loved one.

COPD is a disease that slowly kills healthy lung tissue, chronical bronchitis is also characterized by a smoker's cough and is caused by inflammation and can cause bronchial scarring, and emphysema is where the air sacs lose their flexibility and makes it hard for oxygen to enter the bloodstream making it very hard to breath. This makes for more mucos, coughing and infections.

Air trapped in damaged or dying parts of the lungs keep the lungs from operating at full capacity and the patient will have trouble breathing. There is no cure to this disease because no one has discovered a way to make new lung tissue. At age 35 people will begin to lose about an ounce of lung tissue per year. This is normal and not a problem in healthy people. But for the smoker this amount of loss is quadrupled and increasing the probability of becoming oxygen dependent. After 40 or 50 years of loss this could make it difficult to do the most menial tasks.

The symptoms of the disease are the same in men and women. The progression of the disease seems to be faster in women especially if they continue to smoke or are diagnosed at a later stage.

Shortness of breath is the major symptom of COPD. And coughing up clear mucos. In the early stages most patients are fine setting or resting but have a problem with breathing just walking afew feet. It's time to see the doctor if you suddenly become winded riding a bike, getting groceries or walking the dog. Early detection of the disease may slow its progression. And the right medication can improve lung function by opening the airways.

COPD is detected by a lung function test. The two step non-envasive test is called a spirometry. It can detect the disease before you have symptoms or tack its progression. The air flow range is figured by age, weight and smoking history.

Quitting smoking will halt the distruction process but continuing to smoke destroys the lung tissue continuously and makes living with COPD harder.

Like asthma drugs COPD medications are inhaled. The two common drugs used are salmeterol and budesonide/formoterol fumarate dihydrate and fluticasone propionate. They were originally designed for asthma sufferers but have been regulated by the FDA for use in COPD. The most common side effect is dry mouth. These drugs can be expensive and aren't covered by Medicare or insurance. Alternative remedies such as herbs, accupunture and …….. have no scientific information to support their use.

There are two surgical treatments used but they are short term solutions. The first most common surgery is lung volume reduction surgery which removes about 30% of each lung which help air to circulate better. And one that is an in-patient procedure. A surgical incision through the breast bone with the effected tissue being removed through the chest. And one less evasive one which uses incisions on both sides of the chest removing the damaged tissue. These require 5-10 days in the hospital and weeks of rehabilitation. And it is a short term solution because the disease usually comes back in two or three years.

There is a new option that is being testing in the U.S. Minimally invasive valves shaped like an umbrella are put into the lungs with a flexible tube called a bronchoscope by way of the mouth or nose. This is said to redirect air flow to healthier areas from the diseased ones.

COPD is a irreversible condition but some patients have been able to manage the condition for more than 20 years. The best option, ofcourse, is to not start smoking in the first place.

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