There are five big respiratory diseases that are the most common causes of severe illness and death worldwide- COPD, asthma, acute lower respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis and lung cancer. There are other forms of lung disease that also impact large populations around the world like occupational lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, sleep apnea, pulmonary embolism.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD affects 16.4 million adults and accounts for two main groups of lung diseases, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, each contributes to the obstruction of air flow that interferes with a patient’s normal breathing.
If you have been diagnosed with COPD, understand that your condition will worsen over time. However, you can take the necessary treatment that can improve your quality of life and slow down the progression of your disease and you can do so by overcoming hardships and challenges that your disease will inevitably present you. Its called a fight for a reason!
Early and accurate diagnosis of COPD is a huge factor in treating your disease, this may seem obvious, how can you treat a disease if you don’t know that you have it? But it is not that simple, inaccurate diagnosis of COPD happens all of the time, and it is important that you and your doctor are aware of the signs of COPD so you can catch it early on!
Testing for COPD
Doctors should use spirometry for the diagnosis of COPD according to a GOLD report that was released in 2020. This test is helpful in avoiding misdiagnosis and determining the severity or stage of your COPD.
When diagnosing COPD, a doctor is looking at things like:
- Severity of airflow limitation
- History of exacerbations
- Presence of other health conditions
Looking Out for Early Signs of COPD
Looking out for COPD symptoms is not the easiest way to prevent COPD because oftentimes symptoms don't appear until lung damage has already occurred to the point of no return. The best way to look out for yourself and avoid getting COPD or at least be sure that you are slowing the progression of the disease if you already have it, is to reduce and eliminate your exposure to respiratory irritates, number one being cigarette smoke. Quit smoking!
If you have COPD you’ll start to notices signs and symptoms of COPD like:
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
- Chest tightness
- Chronic cough
- Excess production of mucus that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Lack of energy
- Unintended weight loss (if your disease has progressed into more severe stages)
- Swelling in areas of your legs
All of these COPD symptoms can inflict pain and suffering on your day to day life, so treating your disease properly can help ease these discomforting symptoms.
Treating COPD Symptoms
COPD affects everyone differently, you might experience more shortness of breath throughout the day and someone else may have a chronic cough, COPD is not a straight laid out treatment plan, it requires you to be flexible and listen to your body.
You also have to listen to your doctor and take the medication and oxygen therapy as prescribed in order to reduce the chances of experiencing an exacerbation and hospitalization, and to slow down the progression of your disease.
Long term oxygen therapy is one of the most effective treatments for COPD if your blood oxygen levels are low enough, and is the only treatment that will actually add years to your life.
This is because once your COPD has infiltrated your lungs to the point where they can no longer function properly enough to provide your body with the oxygen it needs to survive, supplemental oxygen can oxygenate your blood for you.
If your blood oxygen levels are low enough, and your doctor prescribed you supplemental oxygen therapy, a portable oxygen concentrator is your ticket to a healthier lifestyle. With the help of your oxygen device you should be able to sleep better, exercise more, and breathe easier.
Overcoming Challenges Presented with Supplemental Oxygen Therapy
Overcoming challenges with your oxygen therapy will come with time, patience, and practice. As with anything, it will take time to get used to using your device.
Using the tubing during the day and at night while you sleep is a learning process, but eventually it will be second nature.
If you feel like the tubing is rubbing uncomfortably on your ear or your face, try wrapping the tubing in fabric or foam. This is a great solution for irritated skin caused by the friction of a nasal cannula sitting against your face or on top of your ears. Because you have to wear this tubing all day and night, the constant contact can cause soreness and skin irritation over time, which can make oxygen therapy very uncomfortable.
Dryness and irritation
Sometimes, you will notice your supplemental oxygen can cause dryness and irritation, common areas that might be affected are your lips, the skin under the nose, and other areas of the face that are near or in contact with your nasal cannula, oxygen, mask, or tubing.
This can be the result of rubbing, chafing, or the constant flow of air drying out your skin. When you use oxygen continuously, it is common that your skin will dry out in the areas where air escapes the tubing.
A simple solution for dryness and irritation that can help your skin heal and reduce the chances of future inflammation is to start using water-based moisturizers on your face and lips. If that does not help, your skin irritation could be a sign that your oxygen mask or nasal cannula isn't fitting you properly. If it's too tight, too big, or sits too loosely on your face, it can cause unnecessary friction and chaffing.
If you are having chronic problems with soreness or irritation, talk to your doctor or your oxygen supply company about getting a new nasal cannula or oxygen mask. You might need to try a different size, a different design, or a different brand in order to find one that fits your face more comfortably.
For more tips and trick to make you oxygen therapy more comfortable, read this blog:
Common COPD medication consists of long-acting and short-acting bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, combination inhalers, oral steroids, phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors, theophylline, and antibiotics.
All of these mediations have some kind of set back or side effect that can disturb your day to day life. Managing your medication and taking it properly is one of the only ways you can combat these issues.
Overcoming Challenges Presented with Medication
First of all, if one of your medications is giving you horrible side effects, talk with your doctor about trying a different medication with the same purpose but perhaps a different medication will not have such great side effects.
There is a lot of research being done surrounding COPD, and new innovative medications become available from time to time, so be sure you stay up to date with COPD news and experiential treatments either by doing your own research online or speaking with your doctor.
There are many efforts to develop new drugs for COPD. A research team from NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Rome, Italy, investigated the use of hyaluronan. Hyaluronan is naturally produced by many of the tissues in your body, including your lungs. The idea of utilizing hyaluronan as a new drug for treating COPD wound be for healing and reducing inflammation. In animal studies, inhaled hyaluronan treatment was shown to reverse some types of COPD, so watch this space and others like it for new COPD clinical trials.
If you have COPD, you already know that exercise is a huge aspect of your treatment plan, and finding a time to exercise everyday will help you manage your COPD and slow the progression of your disease. But you also must know how hard it is to find the motivation to exercise.
Overcoming Challenges Presented with Exercise
If your disease has progressed, and you are required to be on oxygen therapy, having the right oxygen equipment can help you find motivation to exercise more than any other one thing. A lightweight portable oxygen device will give you the ability to bring your oxygen with you for a long walk or bike ride so you can stay oxygenated during your exercise session.
If you need continuous flow oxygen, the Respironics SimplyGo is the lightest continuous flow device available today, and it is a great option for any oxygen patient that is looking for more range of motion and freedom to exercise.
Of course, even with the help of your oxygen device, exercise can still be challenging.
Here are a few tips for getting in shape with COPD:
- Start with small increments and time, and build from there.
- Write down an attainable goal everyday that involves moving your body or an exercise that you can do. Check off the goal once you’ve accomplished it.
- If you feel tired one day, try to go for a short walk instead of taking the day off
- Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet that give you energy
- Join a pulmonary rehabilitation course to learn new exercise and be around people going through similar trials and tribulations as you
Mental Health and Depression
Dealing with a chronic illness will take its toll on your mental health because you are not always capable of doing the things you once loved. Not to mention that diseases like COPD can be intrusive and uncomfortable to live with.
Emotional health is just as important to take care of on top of your physical health that you treat with medication and oxygen therapy. One of the best ways to treat mental health issues is to seek out meaningful and helpful social interactions.
Try talking to support groups and opening up in your pulmonary rehabilitation courses, it is likely that someone in your COPD community is going through similar issues. If you have trouble opening up about your mental health in person, try joining facebook and online forums and talking to people online. Also don’t forget that confining in friends and loved ones may seem hard at first, but it can really help them understand your mood swings and symptoms that are not always as obvious.
Beyond social interaction, you can also talk to your healthcare team about your mental state. Asking for help is sometimes the only way to get your emotions under control, so ask your health care providers to work with you to understand the cause of your feelings, and to identify coping strategies that will work for you. They may recommend you speak with a mental health professional such as a counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
There are also medications available to help with anxiety and depression, but they have not always been found to be effective for people with COPD. Counseling, or talk therapy, can successfully help people living with COPD change patterns of negative thinking and behaviors, improve quality of life and reduce anxiety and depression.
Dealing with challenges is a guaranteed part of having a chronic illness like COPD, overcoming these challenges is left up to you.
There are active steps you can take to get through the obstacles, and if LPT Medical can help you get the oxygen device you need to combat supplemental oxygen related challenges, just call 1(800)-946-1201.
You can also find a plethora of respiratory disease resources on our website where you can get information about everything and anything you need to learn more about your condition and how to manage it!