COPD Management

As seen in Consultant Connection March 2012 Issue
Sue Morrison, LRCP

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COLD) is the most common lung diseases in our society. COPD is a term used to describe a disease that interferes with normal breathing and gets worse slowly over time. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Often, people have both.

Smoking is the lead contributing factor of developing COPD and continued smoking increases the probability of developing COPD. Other risk factors include exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace, exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution.

COPD frequently goes undiagnosed because the symptoms appear slowly. Common symptoms are cough (with or without mucus), fatigue, increased respiratory infections, and shortness of breath (dyspnea) especially with activity, chest tightness and wheezing.

The best test for COPD is a simple breathing test called spirometry. It involves blowing hard into a small machine that measures lung capacity. Remember, there is no cure for COPD but there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse.
  1. Quit smoking.
  2. Use inhalers as ordered by the physician.
    • After using inhalers (Spriva, Advair, Symbicort, etc.) the user should rinse their mouth by swishing with water and spitting out, not swallowing, the water.
  3. Exercise regularly. It may seem diffi cult to exercise when you have trouble breathing, but regular exercise can improve overall strength and endurance and strengthen the respiratory muscles.
  4. Breathing exercises. An easy one can be done by sitting or standing and raising one arm over the head, inhale through the nose, hold for 5 seconds (longer if possible) and exhale through pursed lips (puckered), do this several times, then repeat with other arm. If holding the arm in this position is difficult, it can rest on the head, on the back of a chair, etc. This stretches the muscles down your side allowing your lungs to expand easier.
  5. Eat small, healthy meals.

Here are some additional suggestions on making COPD more manageable for everyone.

  • The COPD patient can be trying: ex; the typical COPD patient says, “This is the worse place I have ever been, the worse food I have ever eaten, you are the worse person to ever stand in front of me”. It is important to remember this is the disease talking. DO NOT take it personally.
  • It is difficult for a COPD patient to lie flat. Gravity is pulling down on their chest therefore; they have to work harder to move the weight to open their lungs. They prefer to sit up leaning forward most of the time.
  • When experiencing breathing difficulties, a fan blowing air in their face can provide relief. You will be amazed.
  • A hot beverage helps relax the airway.
For additional information, contact your respiratory therapist.

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