As you go through life, some moments will take your breath away. The birth of a newborn child, the sunset on a beach, and perhaps the view of a mountain top in the clouds. However, for at least 12.7 million adults in America, a breath-taking moment may be a serious condition called COPD.
What is COPD?
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In simple layman terms, COPD is a disease that obstructs the passage of oxygen in your lungs. COPD is not to be confused with asthma, which is primarily due to lung inflammation. Normally, oxygen is absorbed into your body through your lungs and into your blood stream. Your body uses oxygen to create energy molecules that your body needs to survive. An adequate supply of oxygen is essential for your body, including your brain, to function properly. Therefore, the obstruction of air passage ways that occurs with COPD can be fatal if not medically treated. It is estimated that COPD is one of the greatest non-diagnosed condition of our time, with 24 million Americans having impaired lung function.
Quit Smoking, Pretty Please?
Smoking is the biggest risk factor for those who are diagnosed with COPD. 85-90% of COPD patients currently smoke or have a history of smoking. In the modern era, there is absolutely no excuse for this statistic! If you currently smoke and have COPD, please discuss treatment options with your physician or pharmacist. Besides COPD there are a multitude of reasons to quit smoking today!
Other reasons for COPD include occupational hazards, environmental contributions like pollution, or a rather rare condition called Alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency-related (AAT) emphysema. From a practical point of view, if you feel you are having issues with your lung function, see your physician immediately for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.
My Experience and Tips
Are you using your medications properly? In the pharmacy I have learned to always properly explain how to use your COPD medications. Every patient with COPD should have at least an inhaler they use for emergencies, as well as an inhaler they use everyday for long-term maintenance. Be sure you are using your long acting inhaler everyday and correctly! Your emergency inhaler, for example albuterol, is meant to be used “as needed”. Be sure to keep a log of how often you need your emergency inhaler so your physician can make adjustments to your therapy. Don’t be afraid to utilize your pharmacist for proper inhalation techniques for all of your medications! Teaching is what we love about our job. Additionally, use the manufacturer’s website for step by step instructions on how to use your medication.
Patients with COPD also tend to be on multiple other medications for unrelated conditions such as blood pressure. Keeping up with which medications to take when can be hard. I encourage every patient on multiple medications to utilize a pill box of some sort as well as phone reminders. Medications can’t work if you don’t take them.
Once Again, Quit Smoking!
Yes, it really is important to quit smoking. Not only for your lungs, but for other conditions as well. Smoking is a risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, cancers, strokes, and the list goes on and on! OTC products, prescription products, and many venues of social support are available to help you stop smoking.
Overall, COPD is highly treatable. I highly encourage every patient to be proactive in their education and treatment of their COPD diagnosis. Save your life and live happy!
Sources: National Institute of Health, American Lung Association