Do you have chronic coughing or wheezing? Do you have constant shortness of breath? If so, you may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. If you or a loved one suffer from COPD, we can help. We are the leading asthma and allergy clinic in Colorado Springs specializing in the treatment of COPD and other respiratory medical conditions.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a life-threatening lung disease with no known cure. However, if you have been diagnosed with COPD, you may have treatment options that can slow the progression of the disease. The first step is knowing you have the disease. The next step is doing something about it. Depending on the severity of the disease, there are lifestyle changes, therapy options including medications, and surgeries that can all help a COPD patient to breathe easier.
Contact our clinic to schedule a time to talk to one of our COPD doctors at Asthma & Allergy Associations, PC (AACOS).
Your COPD screening or treatment visit may be covered by insurance. We also accept cash and credit card payment. Please contact your insurance company for coverage details.
What Is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a lung disease that prevents a person from breathing properly or efficiently. Different structures in the lungs like the bronchi and air sacs can be affected. Over 12 million adults are thought to have COPD based on most recent data. This is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
The leading cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. A person doesn’t even have to smoke to be affected by cigarette smoke. Second-hand smoke or prolonged exposure to smoke from fuel like coal can also cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Another cause of COPD is a deficiency of the protein alpha 1-antitrypsin or AAT. The lack of this protein can make people more prone to asthma or COPD. This causes the walls of the air sacs to degrade over time and makes it harder for the lungs to work properly.
A third cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is dust. The dust can be from a great many sources, including coal, grain or metal. People who work in these industries need to wear protective gear to minimize inhalation of these particles. Pollutants like sulfur dioxide also contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Medical professionals at a COPD treatment center might recommend that a patient change jobs if it’s affecting his or her health adversely. A doctor might also recommend that the patient receive flu or pneumonia vaccines since those with chronic lung diseases are at very high risks of complications from influenza.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease develops slowly. Most people don’t notice signs and symptoms until around age 50. Sufferers may develop a chronic, productive cough and may feel short of breath even with minimal exercise. They may also experience wheezing and feel a tightness like a band around their chest. Common day-to day COPD symptoms include:
- Coughing up mucus or phlegm
- Difficult or labored breathing; shortness of breath especially during physical activity
- Wheezing and chest tightness
Many people with COPD periodically experience exacerbations, a worsening of their COPD symptoms lasting a few days or longer, which may include:
- an increase in mucus production, cough, and shortness of breath
- a change in the color of sputum
By the time many people are diagnosed with COPD, they may have lost some of their lung function. So it’s really important that you talk to your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed.
People with COPD need to take extra special care of their lungs. Several lifestyle choices may need to be addressed to improve lung function.
- Quit Smoking: The majority of COPD patients are smokers. Continuing to pollute the lungs will hasten the deterioration process. Secondhand smoke can also damage the lungs. In fact, any form of smoke irritates the lungs, making breathing harder.
- Eat Right: People with COPD have to work harder to breathe normally, so a healthy diet is important.
- Breathe Clean Air: Airborne toxins or pollution (which could have caused the COPD in the first place) also need to be avoided. This could include everyday items such as perfume, hairspray, and cleaning chemicals. Natural products tend to have less toxins and are therefore easier on the lungs.
- Get Exercise: Regular exercise is good for every part of the body, and the lungs are no exception. There are many types of exercises safe for most COPD patients. A doctor should always be consulted, however, before any exercise regimen is attempted.
- Get Vaccinated: Seasonal viruses can cause major problems for the lungs. For a person with COPD, the flu can cause serious complications. Any measure that can be taken to reduce the risk of getting the flu, the better.
In addition to lifestyle changes, these therapies may be recommended by a doctor:
- Pulmonary Therapy
- Lung Rehabilitation
Every case of COPD is different, so your doctor will assess the stage of the disease and your individual needs. Once a therapy plan is in place, it needs to be strictly followed.
COPD gets worse over time, so close monitoring is required. Many patients document their activities, the symptoms they had after engaging in certain activities, or any other information that would help a health care provider make treatment recommendations.
When diagnosed early, people with COPD have a much better outlook. In some cases, the disease can be identified in time to prevent further deterioration. Generally, though, most patients seek help once their breathing has become a major problem. At this later stage, lifestyle changes and therapies can still help to improve the patient’s quality of life and allow them to lead a fairly normal life. If the condition worsens, it can eventually be life-threatening.
Get Tested Early
If you are a smoker over the age of 45, or if you have noticed that you are frequently short of breath while engaging in everyday activities, get tested right away. Early COPD diagnosis and treatment can make a dramatic difference. Asthma & Allergy Associates can test your lung function and provide treatment options if you are diagnosed with COPD. Take action now to preserve your quality of life.
How Is COPD Diagnosed?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can present itself in several ways. Often, patients fail to seek help until COPD has reached moderate severity. The sooner a person gets diagnosed, however, the sooner treatment can began and damage can be reduced.
Should I Get Tested?
Yes, you should get tested if you have any of these warning signs:
- A history of smoking
- Long-term exposure to harmful inhalants like chemicals, secondhand smoke, or even pollution
- Chronic wheezing
- Chronic coughing of any kind
- Worsening shortness of breath
- Fatigue or reduced physical abilities, especially compared with people of similar age
By far the most common cause of COPD is regular exposure to toxic inhalants, so anyone who has a history of smoking or who works around chemicals should get tested. Genetics can also be a factor. If there is family history of COPD, a person experiencing any of the related symptoms should be tested.
What Tests Are Used?
The most common test used to diagnose COPD is spirometry. A spirometer is a machine attached to a tube and mouthpiece. When a person blows into the mouthpiece, completely emptying his or her lungs, the machine records how much air is blown during the first second and how much is blown after 6 seconds. These two numbers give doctors an idea of how well a person’s lungs are functioning.
A few other tests may also be requested. A doctor may want a chest x-ray or CT scan to rule other possible causes for the lung obstruction. Bronchodilator Reversibility Testing may also be administered to see if medication helps.
Where Can I Get Tested?
The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner steps can be taken to mitigate the damage that already exists. If you think you may be at risk for COPD, schedule an appointment as soon as you can: