COPD Awareness Month:
November is celebrated as COPD Awareness Month. The premise of observing this month is to build awareness regarding the significance of a healthy respiratory system and bring attention to respiratory conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. In the US, around 16 million people are assumed to be affected by COPD.
It is estimated to be more prevalent in women than men. The target age group for COPD is 45 years and above. So, why exactly should everyone care about COPD Awareness Month? Continue reading the article as we dive into the depths of COPD, its causes, and the consequences of COPD in non-smokers and smokers.
COPD Awareness Month: What Is COPD?
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a respiratory condition that entails two conditions, named Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis. In COPD, the lungs become inflamed which restricts the airflow and results in breathing issues.
If we break down the term Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, it denotes:
- Chronic: a long-term disease or condition that does not subside
- Obstructive: since the airway is obstructed or blocked, it is difficult for air to pass in and out
- Pulmonary: relating to lungs
- Disease: a medical condition
So COPD is a group of diseases that makes the respiratory system weak.
Etiology of COPD:
The major cause of COPD is smoking. Other than that, certain factors that are responsible for COPD are:
- Environmental factors
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency
Apart from the above-mentioned causes, other risk factors include:
- Dust, chemicals, and fumes
- Secondhand smoke
- History of respiratory problems
What are the Signs and Symptoms of COPD?
Breathlessness, chesty cough, and fatigue are the main signs and symptoms of COPD. Others include:
- Chest infections that recur,
- Loss of weight,
- Heartache, and
- Ankle swelling.
Stages of COPD:
There are 4 stages of COPD:
First Stage: Mild
Second Stage: Moderate
Third Stage: Severe
Fourth Stage: Very severe
COPD in Non-Smokers:
Conventionally, COPD is linked with smoking. People consider it to be the only cause of COPD, however, the reality is quite different. In this COPD Awareness Month, you must know that COPD has multiple causative factors other than smoking, as discussed above.
The symptoms of COPD in non-smokers and smokers are more or less the same. Both groups experience coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and recurrent lung infections.
The point of differentiation lies in the diagnosis of COPD in both groups. As the progression of COPD in non-smokers is relatively slow, the symptoms appear at a very late stage in their life. Whereas in smokers, the symptoms appear at an early stage and COPD is diagnosed earlier in life.
What causes COPD in Non-Smokers?
- Secondhand smoke
COPD Awareness Month – Diagnosis of COPD:
As previously discussed, COPD is a progressive disease that worsens and progresses with time. It is frequently undiagnosed until the condition is severe.
The doctor will do a regular clinical examination during which time they will note the signs and symptoms, medical history, and frequency of exposure to irritants like smoking. They might also advise more tests, like:
Lung Function Test (LFT):
The most common test, called spirometry or Lung Function Test, measures how much air your lungs can hold and how rapidly they can evacuate it by having you blow into a large tube that is connected to a small machine. Additional tests include the six-minute walk test, pulse oximetry, and measurements of the diffusing capacity and lung volumes.
Emphysema, one of the main causes of COPD, is easily diagnosed with a chest X-ray. It is also beneficial to rule out any other pulmonary diseases.
It aids in the diagnosis of emphysema and lung cancer.
Arterial Blood Gas Analysis:
This measures how successful the lungs are at eliminating carbon dioxide from the blood and carrying oxygen into the body.
Although they aren’t used to diagnose COPD, they can help you understand where your symptoms are coming from or rule out the existence of other conditions. For instance, genetic abnormalities like alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which in some circumstances may be the cause of COPD, may be detected through laboratory testing. You might get this test done if you have COPD at a young age and have a family history of the condition.
- Researchers have created a quick, five-question test to aid primary care physicians in determining which patients should undergo spirometry testing for COPD. CAPTURE is the test’s short name. It denotes COPD Assessment In Primary Care To Identify Undiagnosed Respiratory Disease and Exacerbation Risks.
Management of COPD:
Although COPD cannot be fully cured, it can be managed with the proper care. Despite the fact that some people may feel overwhelmed by the diagnosis of COPD in Non-Smokers, it’s critical to keep the big picture in mind. Here are a few strategies to protect non-smokers from COPD.
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid pollution
- Join groups for support
- Concentrate on strengthening your muscles
- Improve your environment’s air quality
- Use breathing techniques
- Keep your weight in check
- Choose water-based exercises
Prognosis of COPD:
The amount of time you can put up with your symptoms of COPD depends on your age, general health, and age. In particular, if your COPD is identified early, have mild-stage COPD, and your illness is properly managed and controlled, you may be able to live a life with quality for 10 or even 20 years after diagnosis.
Treatment Options for COPD:
COPD cannot be cured but managed with an appropriate COPD treatment plan and opting for lifestyle modifications. Some of the treatment methods include:
- Medication: Inhalers (long, short, steroid)
- Theophylline tablets
- Steroid tablets (corticosteroid medicines)
- Lung therapies
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
COPD is a debilitating condition that impacts the affected individual physically and mentally. It greatly reduces productivity levels and makes the affected individual vulnerable and susceptible to other infectious diseases. In light of COPD Awareness Month, we encourage everyone to keep an eye on their symptoms and talk to their doctor if they notice any changes in their breathing pattern. Revive Research Institute’s aim is to spread awareness regarding lung health and instill in people to keep a check on their lung health.
Remember, it is never too late to begin investing in your respiratory health!