Experiencing chronic breathing difficulties can be frightening for anybody. For many it may be the result of a simple cold but, for others, it may be symptomatic of a serious obstructive lung disease. Whether one has already been diagnosed with lung disease, or suspected of having it, many people endure this uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating condition over many years from lack of understanding. It doesn’t have to be this way as there ways to alleviate the suffering.
What It Is and Isn’t
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD as it is commonly called, designated and describes a group of diseases that interfere with normal breathing, which slowly gets worse over time. The leading known causes of COPD are cigarette and tobacco smoking, passive exposure to smoke, or inhaling large amounts of dust or chemicals either at work or at home. COPD can also be caused by a rare genetic condition called “alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency” in which the body does not make enough of the protein that protects the lungs and the liver from damage.
Diseases that fall under the scope of COPD include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and, a less common type, bronchiectasis. While each disease follows a specific developmental course, in general, each has one thing in common: obstruction of the airways and limitation of airflow to and from the lungs.
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema can develop due to the aforementioned causes. On the other hand, bronchiectasis is the abnormal enlargement of the airways causing recurrent inflammation and infection of the airways. The condition is either congenital or starts at birth.
Living with COPD
People with COPD should view the maintenance of the medications in the same manner as they do their daily routines like brushing teeth, combing hair, making morning coffee and reading the newspaper. Having this condition also requires making some changes to stay healthy.
One of the best things to do is maintain a healthy weight. This helps the immune system work efficiently and makes it easier to breathe and move around. An added approach is to supplement medication with antioxidants, which combat the dangerous free radicals triggered by inflammation. European studies have shown antioxidants to be helpful, although they are not included for use in treating COPD in the US at this time.
Physical activity, such as climbing stairs, may leave a COPD sufferer short of breath. It may seem ironic but the best way to manage this problem is to get into an exercise program, as approved by a doctor. Aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming or biking improve the way the body uses oxygen and help prevent shortness of breath. It also helps to stay in clean, smoke-free environment.