What is COPD
COPD, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, affects more than 65 million people worldwide, mostly male smokers. A person with COPD is experiencing breathing problems and chronic cough, symptoms that worsen over time. COPD is currently not curable, but modern methods of treatment, breathing exercises and a special diet keep the disease under control.
We at the Wiener Privatklinik, one of the biggest private hospitals in Austria, detail the symptoms of the condition and what the best treatment solutions are.
What is COPD and why it is called “obstructive”?
Definition of COPD and how common is it?
COPD often occurs in combination with pulmonary emphysema. In emphysema, the inner walls of the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli) are damaged. This creates a single larger air space instead of several small spaces and reduces the area available for gas exchange. Emphysema is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term lung disease in which the small airways in the lungs are affected. This makes it difficult for air to enter and leave the lungs. COPD is called “obstructive” because it restricts the flow of air to and from the lungs.
What are the first manifestations of COPD?
The symptoms of COPD are:
- difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity,
- chronic cough, possibly with mucus production,
- common respiratory infections .
Later in the course of the disease, the symptoms worsen, and shortness of breath occurs throughout the day, even at rest.
Why does the disease appear?
The most important risk factor for COPD is long-term smoking.
Although men have had the highest prevalence and mortality rates in the past, women have seen the highest increase in COPD prevalence in recent years. Most people with COPD are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin.
Diagnosis of COPD: Spirometry, the most effective method of diagnosis
The most effective and common method of diagnosing COPD is spirometry. This is also known as a lung function test or TFP. This simple and painless test measures lung function and capacity. A computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest may also provide relevant information, whether or not pulmonary emphysema is present.
The best inhaler for COPD: a treatment that facilitates breathing.
Most effective treatments and best inhalers
A variety of medicines are used to treat COPD and there is no one medicine that is “best” for everyone. Most often we use inhalers that contain bronchodilators. These are medicines that make breathing easier by relaxing and widening the airways.
How to recognize an acute COPD?
An exacerbation of COPD or exacerbation occurs when the respiratory symptoms of COPD become more severe. Although each person experiences exacerbations differently, there are a number of possible warning signs:
- more cough,
- wheezing or difficulty breathing more than usual,
- changes in the color, thickness or amount of mucus,
- feeling tired for more than a day,
- swelling of the feet or ankles.
The effects can last for days or even weeks and may require antibiotics, oral corticosteroids and even hospitalization. Acute COPD is usually caused by a viral lung infection, such as COVID-19, or a bacterial infection, but it can also be triggered by things or situations that make your breathing difficult, such as smoking or exposure to smoke or polluted air.
New treatment methods for COPD
It should be noted that medication is now better, especially for bronchodilators, which are now very long-acting, which means that they can be used once a day. In addition, in recent years, it has been of interest to reduce lung volume in emphysema by bronchoscopy.
Can COPD be cured?
At present, COPD cannot be cured. But evolution can be slowed down and a good quality of life can be maintained if:
- is diagnosed early, preferably at an early stage,
- start with proper treatment,
- all risk factors are reduced (smoking in particular).
Is there a Special diet for COPD: Can food be beneficial for COPD?
A person with COPD should try to eat lots of protein, complex carbohydrates and high-fiber foods and add healthy sources of fat to meals and snacks.
Food patterns for people with COPD depend on many factors, including body weight and general health. As a general idea, 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day is recommended from products such as wholemeal bread, pasta, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
Eat a good source of protein at least twice a day to help maintain strong breathing muscles. Good choices include milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, nuts and dried beans or peas.