COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as chronic obstructive lung disease) is the 4th leading cause of death in the US; characterized by a narrowing of the passageways that makes it difficult to breathe, as well as the continuing destruction of the lungs overtime, COPD is not only very serious, but can severely impact quality of life.
COPD can come in a number of forms-the most common are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which often occur simultaneously. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are most often caused by tobacco smoking, although occasionally from long-term exposure to other irritants. The other form of COPD-asthmatic bronchitis-is less common.
Although smoking is the most pointed to cause of COPD (stopping a smoking habit is the best way to improve both symptoms and prognosis for COPD), the true underlying cause is inflammation.
Early signs of COPD include having to clear your throat regularly, especially in the morning, and a mild, mucus-y cough (characteristic of bronchitis-with asthmatic bronchitis, wheezing episodes are also common).
If you have a history of smoking, family history of COPD, and these symptoms, you should see a doctor to test your lung capacity (Spirometry). Other tests may help rule out other disease, but Spirometry is the best way to catch COPD, and can detect it early enough for you to seek treatment and find the motivation to make necessary lifestyle changes.
Most people are older when COPD is diagnosed, after they have already developed severe symptoms. Knowing your risk factors and asking for testing could make a huge difference.
Later symptoms of bronchitis/emphysema (COPD) will develop slowly, and include:
- Shortness of Breath, especially if mild activity can set it off
- Chest Tightness
Flare-ups are another common complication of COPD, and are often caused by an infection (people with COPD are more likely to get respiratory infections, including the cold, flu, and pneumonia). Flare-ups are when symptoms get suddenly worse, and can become life-threatening if not treated.
Natural antibiotics and antivirals can help prevent respiratory infection. Exercise, proper nutrition, breathing techniques, and careful monitoring can also help.
Although there is no cure for COPD, filling your diet with antioxidants may help fight the inflammation that causes the damage to the lungs (even in the 2% of cases caused by the genetic disorder of alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency, since the deficient proteinâ€™s job is to protect lungs from inflammation).
Fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and evening primrose oil are all good sources of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. If, as a symptom of COPD, you are facing malnutrition and supplementing your diet with vitamins, including one based on antioxidants may help.
Do you know anyone who recognized the symptoms of COPD early? What was their experience?