Why COPD Diagnosis and Treatments Are More Important than Ever
Sunday at 2:06 pm
BY SANDRA GUY
Awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — COPD — and its treatments have never been more important — or life-saving.
As November heralds National COPD Awareness Month, experts say people with the underlying condition — while not at higher risk for COVID19 itself, are at high risk for complications and poorer outcomes if they get infected with the coronavirus.
COPD comprises a set of progressive lung diseases. An estimated 251 million people worldwide suffer from some form of COPD. The most common are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Emphysema destroys air sacs in the lungs, which interferes with outward air flow. Bronchitis causes the bronchial tubes to narrow and become inflamed, causing mucus buildup.
Symptoms can include shortness of breath, especially during physical activities, wheezing, chest tightness, lac of energy, frequent respiratory infections and a chronic cough that may produce mucus that may be clear, white, yellow or green.
Certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms, but medication, treatments, and for the worst cases, surgery, are considerations.
• If you smoke, quit. The harmful chemicals in smoke can damage the lining of the lungs and airways.
• Whenever possible, avoid chemical fumes and secondhand smoke.
• Create a healthy eating plan for proper nutrition.
• Consult a doctor about the types of exercises you can do safely.
When the situation requires medication, bronchodilators can relax the airway muscles and help you breathe easier.
To lower the risk of getting other respiratory infections, ask your doctor if you should get a yearly flu shot, pneumococcal vaccine and a tetanus booster that includes protection from pertussis (whooping cough).
If your blood oxygen level is too low, you can receive supplemental oxygen.
Surgery is reserved for severe COPD or when other treatments have failed, which is more likely when you have a form of severe emphysema.
Smokers and people with COPD have an increased risk of severe complications and higher mortality with COVID-19 infection, according to a study published May 11 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jaber Alqahtani of University College London, U.K., and colleagues.
Critically ill COVID-19 patients with COPD had a 63% risk of severe disease and a 60% risk of mortality, while critically ill patients without COPD had only a 33.4% risk of severe disease and 55% risk of mortality.