By Dr. Manav Manchanda, Pulmonology
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases like chronic bronchitis, emphysema non-reversible or refractory asthma. The symptoms include breathlessness, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, wheezing, frequent cold and flu and tightness in the chest. Smoking is one of the major risk factors, where around 20-30 percent of smokers suffer from COPD.
There are several methods to treat COPD, which can ease the symptoms, prevent complications and gradually lower the disease progression. A pulmonologist (a lung specialist) or physical or respiratory therapist can give you better advice about what to do.
Stop Smoking - It is the only way to prevent the symptoms of COPD from worsening. This will improve your breathing ability. Quitting is difficult but not impossible. Take advice from your doctors about nicotine replacement medicines that will help you control smoking and prevent relapses. Also, try to avoid passive smoking.
Oxygen Therapy - This therapy is administered when your blood oxygen levels lower down. Under this method, you are given oxygen through a mask or nasal prongs to enable you to breathe faster and easier. When you have COPD, the airflow in and out of your lungs slow down because of the damage to the tiny air sacs. The walls of your airways also get inflamed. Oxygen therapy boosts your energy levels, improves your mood, your sex life, lowers your chances of heart failure and prolongs your lifespan.
Hydrofluoroalkane Inhaler or HF - This is a dry powder inhaler, a handheld device that delivers a specific amount of medication, as per required, in aerosol form. This medicine penetrates deep inside your lungs, giving you full benefits of the medicine.
Pulmonary rehabilitation program - These programs combine education, exercise training, counseling and nutrition advice. A variety of specialists can help you tailor your rehabilitation program according to your needs. This form of rehabilitation shortens hospital stays, increases your capability to participate in everyday activities and improves the quality of your life.
Avoiding exacerbations - While ongoing treatment, your COPD symptoms can get worse and increase your suffering. It may lead to lung failure if prompt treatment and care are not given. Exacerbation is mainly caused due to lung infection or the inflammation of air passages, which can lead to insistent coughing up of blood, mucus as well as breathing troubles. Additional antibiotics should be prescribed if you have exacerbations. Oxygen supplements should also be provided.
Lung Transplant - This surgery is done when medications fail to control the severity of COPD. Transplantation helps in better breathing. Once you undergo surgery, it is necessary to take life-long immune-suppressing medicines to avoid significant risks.
Bullectomy - When large, hollow air spaces form on the walls of your lungs, it damages the air sacs. This causes intense breathing troubles. The doctor then recommends bullectomy in which the bullae are surgically removed from the lungs and it improves your respiration process.
Eating healthy - A healthy diet is a doorway to good health. It boosts your body metabolism, helps you maintain strength. It reduces the chances of developing complications and diseases. In case you are overweight, lowering your weight improves your breathing, especially during times of heavy physical exertion.
Regular exercises - Exercising can improve your body strength and endurance. It strengthens your respiratory muscles and ameliorates your breathing capability.
Clearing your airways - When you suffer from CPOD, your air passages are blocked with mucus and breathing becomes difficult. Drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier allows you to breathe well without any struggle.