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This Month In Health
  • Drowning on Dry Land
    Stories of dry drowning strike fear in parents. According to social media stories, children who accidentally inhale a little water while swimming and seem fine immediately afterward, suddenly die hours or days later. Are these stories true? Read >>
  • Battling Poison Ivy
    It blends in with its surroundings making it difficult to recognize, but once you’ve rubbed against poison ivy and wound up with a rash, you realize the need to be vigilant about avoiding the three-leafed plant. Keep reading to learn how to identify poison ivy, ways to avoid it, and what to do if you’re exposed. Read >>
  • Your Life: Breathless
    Once you have COPD, you’ll have it the rest of your life. There’s no cure, but there are ways to prevent and treat the symptoms. Read >>
  • Beyond Feeling Sad
    Many people don’t realize is depression often comes with unexpected, atypical symptoms that are not easy to recognize. Because of this, many people suffer with depression without knowing it. If you deal with any of the following thoughts and behaviors, you may be depressed. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Your Life: Breathless

COPD is a leading cause of death. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Need another reason to quit smoking? Besides lung cancer and heart disease, the habit can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Several lung conditions fall under the umbrella of COPD, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, refractory asthma, and types of bronchiectasis. Each of these diseases is characterized by obstructed airflow in the lungs that makes it difficult to breath.

Once you have COPD, you’ll have it the rest of your life. There’s no cure, but there are ways to prevent and treat the symptoms.

Read on to learn more.

Progressively Worsens

 As you inhale, air travels through your windpipe and into two large tubes that lead to your lungs. These tubes divide into smaller tubes that end in air sacs.

Tiny blood vessels fill the air sacs and it’s here where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. Elasticity of the tubes and air sacs are needed for this exchange to occur. COPD damages and destroys these tubes and air sacs so they lose their elasticity and become inflamed and blocked, making it difficult to take a full breath. As the disease progresses, your body lacks sufficient oxygen and isn’t able to get rid of carbon dioxide, the waste product of metabolism.

However, you don’t wake up one day to find you have COPD. It’s disease that develops slowly over the course of years. Early on, you don’t realize anything’s wrong, but as the disease progresses and lung damage worsens, symptoms become more noticeable. Someone with COPD will develop a chronic cough; trouble breathing; excessive mucus; tightness in the chest; difficulty clearing the throat; wheezing; fatigue; and swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet.

Smoke and Fumes

The leading cause of COPD is long-term cigarette smoking. The longer you smoke and the more you smoke, the greater your risk. Other risk factors include smoking cigars, marijuana, or pipes; breathing second-hand smoke, fumes, dust, or air pollution; and cooking in homes without proper ventilation. Some people have a genetic disorder or inherit a genetic predisposition for the disease.

More Than Breathing

Bad as COPD is, it also puts you at risk for other health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and lung cancer. Because of the damage to airways, you’re more likely to suffer from frequent respiratory infections such as colds, flu, and pneumonia.

A chronic illness like COPD can affect your mental health as well. The condition hampers your ability to perform everyday normal activities, keep a job, engage in social activities, and get quality sleep. As a result, many people with the condition deal with depression, anxiety, and stress.

What’s Next?

Many cases of COPD are mild enough that very little intervention is needed. Other times the disease requires medications, lung therapies, or surgery to control symptoms. When smoking is the cause, quitting is your best form of treatment. Talk with your doctor about getting the support you need to quit.
Medications are available to take as needed or on a regular schedule to open up airways, reduce inflammation, prevent exacerbations, or treat infections. Folks with severe COPD may require oxygen therapy using various devices, some portable, that provide additional oxygen to the lungs during times of exertion, while sleeping, or all the time.

Surgery is another possibility to restore lung function when medications aren’t enough to treat symptoms. Some surgeries remove small parts of damaged lung to allow space for healthy lung tissue to expand. Lung transplants are a last resort option but have the ability to add years to your life.