The ABCs of COPD

We asked Kelley Cockrell four quick questions to help readers understand more about COPD and the affects this chronic disease has on patients and their family members.

What are some misconceptions about COPD?

One of the biggest misconceptions about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is that everyone who has COPD smoked. While it’s true, smoking can cause COPD and most patients who have COPD have smoked in their lifetime, approximately 25% of patients diagnosed with COPD have never smoked.  Long-term exposure to chemical irritants such as dust and/or fumes, preterm birth, and genetics can also cause COPD.

What are some lifestyle changes that a person with COPD can do to help manage their symptoms? 

One major and obvious change that someone with COPD could do to manage their disease symptoms would be to quit smoking. Smoking cessation will immediately and dramatically improve lung functions and help decrease overall symptoms. Other lifestyle changes that are beneficial for someone managing COPD would be to get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a healthy diet. Some supplements have also been known to help the symptoms of COPD such as Vitamin E and Omega 3s.

How can a family member be supportive of someone that is diagnosed with COPD?  

Family members can help support their loved one diagnosed with COPD by encouraging them to quit smoking, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. Family members should also encourage their loved ones to keep regular contact with their doctors and take all prescribed medications every day. Living with COPD can be hard and patients may notice they are unable to do activities they once could. Family members can be supportive by reminding them that COPD is a very manageable disease and with proper treatment they can continue to live a normal life.

What symptoms should a person with COPD pay attention to and what should you let your healthcare provider know? 

If a patient is taking all medications are prescribed and are still having symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, and chest discomfort should contact their doctor to discuss other treatment options. If patients experience symptoms such as rapid breathing, wheezing with minimal exertion, cyanosis (bluish discoloration of skin), and or swelling of arms or legs should call their doctor immediately or go to a local emergency room.


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