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COPD by Jessica Unruh

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Being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) means you have an extremely difficult time breathing. COPD is a long-term, progressive disease that is not treatable but is preventable and can be managed as well. With COPD airflow is blocked or slowed down due to two main types of conditions, emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis.

Emphysema is a condition where the alveoli sacs in the lungs do not get the proper amount of air exchange. The reason for this is due to damaged fiber around the walls of the alveoli sacs. Damaged fiber causes these air sacs to provide less surface area for less gas exchange, therefore making it harder to breathe. Chronic asthmatic bronchitis is also a condition that makes up COPD. With this type of condition, the bronchial tubes that lead to your lungs where gas exchange occurs are inflamed and cause for narrowing of the tubes, also known as less airflow.

These two conditions can be caused by smoking tobacco and can be prevented by either not ever smoking or quitting as soon as you’ve been diagnosed with COPD. COPD can also be caused by chemicals in the workplace or air pollutants. The longer the exposure to any of these; the greater your risk. If these damages occur to your lungs, they cannot be reversed; only managed.

There are a few symptoms of COPD, such as shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, and chest tightness. Having any of these symptoms can lead to complications that can further lead to other health problems. Those with COPD tend to get frequent respiratory infections, have high blood pressure, higher risk of heart attacks, as well as suffer from depression. It can be very difficult to do the things you love to do if you can’t breathe.

The sooner you know if you suffer from COPD, the better. This disease develops slowly throughout the years; people normally do not know they have COPD until in their forties or later. If you have any of the symptoms you can go to your doctor so he or she can run tests. A few tests that can be done to test for COPD are imaging tests and lab tests. Imaging tests such as an X-ray or a CT scan of the chest can show what kind of damage there is as well as where damage has occurred. Blood can be taken from an artery to determine how well your lungs are transferring oxygen and carbon dioxide. Another lab test that can determine if you have COPD is a sputum examination. This is done by looking at cells in the mucus you cough up. One of the most beneficial tests to determine if you suffer from COPD is called a spirometry test. This test can determine your total lung capacity; it measures how much air you can take in and out of your lungs in a period of time. This is the only test that can detect COPD before symptoms occur.

Once diagnosis is determined there is no turning back, but there are a few things that can be done to help cope with and treat symptoms of COPD. The most important one is to stop smoking. Others are medications, therapy, and even surgery in the most severe cases. COPD is extremely preventable and taking necessary precautions can lead to healthy lungs as well as a healthy heart for a happy life!



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