By Ariele Vaccaro and Edgar Mendez
However, knowing the symptoms and signs can be one’s first step toward treatment that can lessen or slow the progressive disease.
The first step may be to know what defines COPD. According to the COPD Foundation, it’s a term that includes a number of different progressive lung diseases, including emphysema, bronchitis, and some forms of asthma.
Many patients misdiagnose themselves with typical signs of aging when they experience symptoms of COPD, which include breathlessness, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHBLI), COPD negatively affects the elasticity of the lungs. The alveoli, or lung’s air sacs, become less elastic. Their walls can also be destroyed, making for fewer alveoli in larger size. Airways become inflamed and produce atypical amounts of mucus. All of these make it difficult for the lungs to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen.
It’s important to speak to a medical professional or get a COPD screening when you notice these symptoms rather than disregarding them as harmless or normal. If a patient allows those symptoms to go ignored, it may hugely compromise lung function later in life.
According to NHBLI, COPD is a large cause of disability and can make everyday activities more difficult than usual.
The causes of COPD vary. However, most cases are caused by frequent inhalation of toxin or pollutants, like those found in cigarette smoke or dust and fumes found in some workplaces. Some may be genetically predisposed to the disease as well.
According to the CDC, smoking is the number one cause of COPD and accounts for 8 of 10 COPD deaths. COPD has been especially damaging in the African American community. The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) has found that African American COPD patients over the age of 40 are readmitted to the hospital 30 percent more than other minority groups and nearly 10 percent more than whites. The average readmission cost for a COPD patient is $8,400 per stay.
Though there is no known cure for COPD, there are treatments that can slow the disease and improve quality of life, according to the COPD Foundation. Oxygen treatment is one option. Rescue inhalers also help in situations during which a patient needs immediate relief from tightness in the respiratory system. Controller medications work over the long term to keep the bronchioles open.