Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that affect the lung’s airways and air sacs and make it difficult to breathe. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis, defined by a long-term cough with mucus; and emphysema, defined by destruction of the lungs over time. Most people with COPD have a combination of both conditions. COPD can’t be cured, but Wellstar can help you manage COPD to improve your quality of life.
COPD symptoms may develop slowly over time. They include:
- Coughing with mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Tightness in the chest
These symptoms may appear years before airflow into and out of the lungs is impaired, and having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have COPD. It’s also possible to have COPD and not experience these symptoms.
While the causes of COPD are not completely understood, the major risk factor for COPD is smoking. Other factors include:
- Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace.
- Exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Exposure to pollution and dust.
- A family history of COPD.
- Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), a severe form of acid reflux, can damage the esophagus and can cause or worsen COPD.
- A rare genetic condition called alpha-l antitrypsin deficiency can contribute to lung damage that can lead to COPD.
Lung damage caused by COPD cannot be reversed, but there are steps you can take to prevent it from occurring or worsening. These include:
- Stop smoking if you smoke cigarettes, cigars or a pipe.
- Avoid secondhand smoke, pollution, dust and other airborne contaminants.
- Live a healthy lifestyle.
- Get seasonal flu and pneumonia vaccines.
The sooner COPD is diagnosed, the sooner your treatment can begin. While COPD can’t be cured, the symptoms can be managed so that you feel better and can participate more fully in everyday activities.
Tools and Tests
Wellstar physicians use a wide spectrum of diagnostic tools and tests for assessment of patients who may have COPD, including:
- Chest X-ray
- Lung volume tests
- Lung compliance tests
- Arterial blood gas testing
- Pulse oximetry
- Cardiopulmonary stress tests
- Mucus culture
Wellstar’s comprehensive and integrated treatment for COPD has achieved significantly lower mortality rates than the national average. This achievement places Wellstar in the top 10% of hospitals in the United States in COPD and pneumonia care.
COPD treatment options include:
- Smoking cessation, because smoking is the leading cause of COPD.
- Oxygen therapy, when appropriate, to help patients:
- Live longer
- Manage tasks or activities with fewer symptoms
- Protect their hearts and other organs from damage
- Sleep more during the night
- Improve alertness during the day
Medications, which include:
- Bronchodilators which are usually taken using an inhaler, relax and open the muscles around your airways, making breathing easier.
- Inhaled steroids, which may reduce swelling in the airways for people with moderate to severe COPD.
- Flu and pneumonia vaccines are important for people with COPD, who are at higher risk of developing complications with both diseases.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation does not cure COPD, but it can teach you to breathe in a different way so you can stay active and improve your quality of life. Rehabilitation services include exercise, disease management and nutritional and psychological counseling.
- Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) is sometimes necessary to remove damaged tissue from the lungs.
Treatment of sleep disorders can help with symptoms of COPD as well. Wellstar Windy Hill Hospital Sleep Disorders Center is one of the largest American Academy of Sleep Medicine accredited centers in the nation, with satellite sleep labs at Wellstar Douglas and Paulding hospitals.
Ongoing Care for COPD
People who suffer with COPD can learn to manage their symptoms and regain control of their lives. Wellstar can design a long-term treatment plan to help persons with COPD improve their quality of life.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important and challenging steps in effective COPD management. Wellstar offers Smoking Cessation programs that educate people about smoking risks, encourage behavior modification to help minimize smoking urges and offer numerous coping strategies. Several different methods for changing smoking behavior are explored so that individuals learn approaches that work best for them.
Rehabilitation objectives for COPD include:
- Maximizing independence
- Reducing severity of symptoms
- Increasing exercise tolerance
- Reducing anxiety related to the lung condition
- Ensuring safe and swift recovery from surgical procedures
- Improving an individual’s ability to participate in day-to-day activities
Education goals include teaching patients:
- How to cope with and manage COPD
- How to effectively use medications
- Lifestyle changes and exercises to improve quality of life
- How nutrition and special breathing techniques can help manage COPD symptoms and improve quality of life