Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that
makes breathing difficult. The lungs become damaged and the air ways
become particularly obstructed making it hard to move air in or out of
the lungs. COPD causes the airways to become clogged with excess mucus
and the sacs become damaged. This combined with the inflammation of the
airways leads to difficulty breathing.
Who Can Get COPD?
Anyone can get COPD who is exposed to lung irritants. Those who smoke or are around smoke are more likely to develop COPD. If there is a family history of COPD than the likelihood of developing COPD if you smoke is higher. Those who have had several lung infections especially during childhood are also a greater risk of developing COPD. COPD is not contagious and the first symptoms are usually seen in adults over the age of 40. Although it is rare people younger than 40 can also develop COPD.
Causes of COPD
COPD is caused by is caused by exposure from fumes and irritants to the lungs. COPD is a disease that is developed over time from long term exposure from these irritants. Smoking is the most common cause for COPD. COPD can also be caused from long term exposure to air pollution as well as working in an area with heavy dust or with chemicals. Second hand smoke can also cause COPD. These irritants cause the elastic fibers of the lungs to be destroyed. There is also a rare genetic disorder that can cause a person to be more at risk of developing COPD.
Signs and Symptoms of COPD
COPD develops slowly over time. The first signs and symptoms of COPD is a persistent cough and excess mucus or sputum associated with this cough. The severity of symptoms associated with COPD depends on the extent of the damage to the lungs destruction of the lungs will develop fast with continued smoking or exposure to lung irritants. Here is a list of other symptoms associated with COPD.
- Shortness of Breath
- Tightness in the Chest
Over-the-Counter Treatments of COPD
While there is no cure for COPD, the symptoms can be treated. In mild cases you can treat the symptoms of COPD with over the counter medications. The use of an over the counter inhaler can help relieve shortness of breath and cough medicine can assist with relief from the persistent cough. One of the most important over the counter medications that can help prevent the further destruction of the lungs is the use of stop smoking aids. Patches, gums and other products can be purchased over the counter to help you quit smoking which can help prevent the future damage to the lungs and help improve lung function.
Alternative Treatments for COPD
The most important treatment for COPD is to quit smoking, but there are also alternative treatments that can help reduce the symptoms of COPD. The use of vitamins and supplements has not yet been proven in clinical trials to help with COPD but have been used successfully for some patients suffering from COPD.
- NAC ( breaks down mucus)
- L-Carnitine (increases breathing in association with exercise)
- Creatine (increases muscle strength, endurance and overall health)
- Omega-3 (reduces risk of COPD)
- Magnesium (needed for normal lung function)
- Vitamin C ( reduces risks of bronchitis)
When is Medical Treatment Necessary?
Since COPD is a progressive disease you should work with your physician to help promote and maintain a healthy life style and any flare ups of COPD or other illness that compromise breathing. When the symptoms of COPD begin to affect your life and alternative treatments no longer help reduce the symptoms of COPD a physician can prescribe medications to help aid breathing.
Medical Treatments for COPD
The goal of medical treatment for COPD is to slow the progression of the disease while treating symptoms and improving overall health. There are several treatment options doctors can prescribe for patients with COPD.
Bronchodilators: this is a medication administer through an inhaler. This medication acts to open the airways making breathing easier. There are two types of Bronchodilators short acting and long acting. Short acting works best for those with mild COPD. For more serious cases of COPD a combination of the two types may be used.
Inhaled Glucocorticosteriods: An inhaled steroid also administered with an inhaler reduces inflammation and makes breathing easier.
Oxygen Treatments: Oxygen treatments are for those patients with severe COPD. Low levels of oxygen can be corrected by breathing medical grade oxygen for at least 15 hours a day. This can help increase oxygen in the blood prevent damage to your organs and prolonging life.
Surgery and Lung Transplant: There are surgical options that are still in the experimental phases for treating COPD. A lung transplant is also an option for those patients with severe COPD. Both of these options are extremely dangerous with a high risk of death associated with them.