Affecting more than 15 million individuals in the United States, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of disability among adults ages 65-74. According to the National Institutes of Health, “an estimated 80 to 90 percent of COPD cases are diagnosed in individuals with a long-term history of smoking. Nonsmokers can also develop COPD from causes such as long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs (like air pollution).”
Of those 15 million individuals affected, there are as many as 12 million thought to be affected as well that can’t recognize the signs and symptoms associated, delaying treatment and prevention of the disease. So, what can be done to help identify symptoms in order to prevent and treat the onset of COPD?
As COPD progresses symptoms worsen and for many who wait to get treatment, the disease will have already caused permanent lung damage, but for those who identify symptoms early on have a higher chance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Doctors recommend checking yourself for these common symptoms of COPD:
- Frequent cough or cough that produces a lot of mucus, especially upon waking in the morning
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
- Chest tightness
- Inability to take a deep breath
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds
If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms, see a doctor for formal diagnosis. A doctor will examine your medical history and the results of any tests ordered, such as lung function tests, blood tests and chest X-rays or CT scans. Upon diagnosis, your doctor will determine the best treatment options for you based on your symptoms, medical history and the severity of the disease. Since every case of COPD is different, it is imperative to receive customized treatment options.
While there is no cure for COPD, “several treatment options are available to relieve the associated symptoms. These include medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, lifestyle modifications and surgery. If you smoke, quitting is a critical step in treating COPD. The goals of treatment are geared toward relieving symptoms, slowing disease progression and improving overall quality of life.”