Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, has been branded as the "silent killer." It is because some people do not even know they have it until it becomes too dangerous to handle.
Millions of people in the United States have COPD but have not been diagnosed because they are unaware of it. This implies that they also do not get treatment for it. This is when the disease becomes a threat to life.
Let us first learn more about COPD.
What is COPD?
COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs. A COPD patient often has difficulty breathing. Emphysema and bronchitis are two of their common conditions.
If COPD is left untreated, the disease will progress and result in even more health problems, such as heart problems and respiratory infections.
In the US, approximately 16 million people are affected by COPD. These are the diagnosed cases alone. There are still many people who have not been diagnosed or treated.
It is important to know the symptoms of COPD so you can be warned about the possibility of having it.
What are the Symptoms of COPD?
The most common symptoms of COPD include:
- Excessive production of phlegm or mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty taking a deep breath
COPD Facts You Didn’t Know
Many people are not aware that they already have COPD. It is also because they do not have much information about it. Let me share these facts about COPD that you might not know yet.
Fact # 1: Not all COPD cases are caused by smoking.
People believed that COPD was caused mainly by smoking. There are COPD cases where the patient never smoked. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, but it is not the only one.
There are other reasons people suffer from COPD. One is genetics. Another cause is working in environments with poor air quality. This doesn’t mean that if you do not smoke, you will not experience COPD.
Fact # 2: COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide.
As silent as it is, COPD can cause death if untreated. Since many didn’t know that they had the disease, they remained untreated. This causes the disease to worsen and eventually leads to death. In 2019, there were approximately 3.23 million deaths caused by COPD.
Fact # 3: A treatment method for COPD may or may not work for you.
There are different types of treatments for COPD. The effects of treatment may vary from person to person. There are times when treatment works well for some people but not for others.
It is best to have regular visits to your doctor so they may advise you on which treatment will work best for you. The different treatments for COPD include:
- Medications (bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, inhalers, antibiotics)
- Lung therapy (oxygen therapy, pulmonary Rehabilitation program)
- In-home ventilation therapy (non-invasive)
- Surgery (Bullectomy, Lung volume reduction surgery, Lung transplant)
Fact #4: Women are more vulnerable to COPD.
As more men smoke than women, it is quite a surprise that more women have suffered from COPD in recent years. Since 2000, COPD has been the leading cause of death among women in the United States according to the statistics.
Though not all women smoke, different causes lead them to suffer from COPD. Women are more vulnerable to the effects of tobacco and harmful chemicals and substances. There are also differences in the way men and women respond to treatments.
Fact # 5: Many COPD patients do not know they have it.
In the US, 48% of those who have COPD are unaware of it. This means they already have the disease but do not yet feel its symptoms or are just ignoring them. When a patient does not know they have COPD, they will also ignore getting a diagnosis from a doctor. Treatment will also be delayed or not given at all.
By the time they notice symptoms, the disease has progressed and treatment is no longer an option.
Methods for Managing COPD and Its Symptoms
There is no cure for COPD, but there are lots of ways to manage it, including its symptoms. Among these are:
- Quit smoking - smoking is a known leading cause of COPD. Removing it from your system will lessen the risk of it worsening.
- Avoid pollutants - though it is unavoidable, try to stay away from places where pollutants are abundant. Dust, smoke, and fumes are among the pollutants that can cause COPD.
- Do breathing exercises - this can help increase oxygen levels and help the lungs eliminate musty air.
- Essential oils - essential oils like eucalyptus have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help clear up the airways by reducing mucus production.
- Improve air quality at home - there are lots of pollutants in your home. To prevent the risks that these can bring, you should improve the quality of the air in your home. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Open windows and let natural air flow freely in your home
- Use an air filtration system
- Reduce the use of household chemicals
- Frequent cleaning to avoid dust from building up
The Bottom Line
COPD is common not just in the US but all over the world. Anyone can have it; men, women, young, and old. It is important to know the symptoms so you can be alerted right away. A visit to the doctor if you feel anything unusual, especially with your breathing, is important. As they say, prevention is better than cure.
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