World COPD Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) in collaboration with health care professionals and COPD patient groups throughout the world.
The 2021 theme for World COPD Day will be “Healthy Lungs – Never More Important” and takes place on November 17. During this COVID pandemic, this year’s aim is to highlight that the burden of COPD remains.
There is never a more important time to focus on lung health! We take our lungs for granted. They keep us alive, that is why it is important to prioritize your lung health. Keeping your lungs healthy can include avoiding cigarettes, air pollution, or occupational exposures, as well as staying active either through regular physical activity or pulmonary rehab. In addition, receiving important vaccines, keeping medical appointments, and taking medications correctly can help keep your lungs healthy.
What is COPD?
COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a long-term condition where the airways are narrowed and the air gets trapped in the lungs due to difficulty in breathing out. Characterized by persistent and progressive breathlessness, cough, sputum production, wheezing.
Chronic = it’s a long-term condition and does not go away
Obstructive = your airways are narrowed, so it’s harder to breathe out quickly and the air gets trapped in your chest
Pulmonary = it affects your lungs
Disease = it’s a medical condition
What causes COPD?
The cause of COPD is usually long-term exposure to irritants that damage the lungs and airways. Exposure to inhaled irritants can contribute to COPD. These include secondhand smoke, air pollution, and chemical fumes or dust from the environment or workplace. The main reason for COPD is tobacco smoking. COPD is rising because of poor air quality in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. Also, commonly-used things like mosquito repellent coils used at home can cause COPD as exposure to the same at night was found to be equivalent to smoking 100 cigarettes together.
Symptoms of COPD
COPD symptoms appear when significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually intensify gradually, especially if smoking exposure continues. COPD symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, breathing difficulties, chronic cough, respiratory infections, fatigue, unintentional weight loss, and swelling of the legs, feet, and ankle. Moreover, Few symptoms may overlap with Covid-19. So it is important to visit a doctor to carry out a correct diagnose. The symptoms will usually get gradually worse over time and make daily activities increasingly difficult, although treatment can help slow the progression.
How is it diagnosed?
To diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, Health care professionals will evaluate symptoms, ask for patients’ complete health history based on the risk factors, symptoms, and spirometry (lung function tests).
How is COPD treated?
Bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids are the main pharmacological agents used. The combination of drugs used depends on the category of COPD. The drugs are mostly prescribed in inhalational form (inhalers, nebulization). Surgical options like lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) and advanced bronchoscopic interventions for the treatment of severe COPD are now available.
What can you do to manage your COPD?
There are lots of treatments that can help you to live better with chronic bronchitis. It’s a combination of lifestyle changes, exercise, and medication treatments.
Regular activity: Being active and exercising can help to improve your breathing, fitness, and quality of life. One should not avoid activities that make breathless. Regular exercise can help reverse this by strengthening your muscles.
Breathing Control: Techniques and positions are there that can help you to cope when you get out of breath and feel more in control of your breathing. Talk to your respiratory physiotherapist or nurse to find out what works for you.
Healthy diet and healthy weight: A balanced diet supplies the nutrients your body needs to work effectively and maintain a healthy weight. Your doctor or nurse can help you to work out what your healthy weight should be and can refer you to a dietician or local scheme to help you if necessary.
Emotional wellbeing: Emotional health is an important part of overall health. The risk of anxiety and depression is greater in people with more severe COPD, people who have been admitted to the hospital, and those with low oxygen levels. Treatment is available to support you. Many other people have experienced anxiety and depression and have recovered. They are both very normal reactions to living with COPD. Talk to your health care professional about medications and counseling.
How to keep your lungs healthy?
Prevention is the best medicine, and working to keep lungs healthy is much more efficient than trying to repair them after something goes wrong. Keeping lungs healthy can include avoiding cigarettes, air pollution, or occupational exposures, as well as staying active either through regular physical activity or pulmonary rehab. In addition, receiving important vaccines, keeping medical appointments, and taking medications correctly can help keep your lungs healthy.
(Dr. Chetan Rao Vaddepally is Consultant Pulmonologist, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad)
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