Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known by its initials–COPD–is a chronic or long-lasting lung disease. Sometimes COPD is also called chronic bronchitis or emphysema. A person with COPD has a hard time breathing because of damage to the lungs. COPD is usually found in people 60 years and older and is a disease that gets worse over time.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD. However, some people may have COPD from breathing chemicals, fumes, or even secondhand smoke. There is no cure for COPD, but it can be prevented by not smoking, not breathing secondhand smoke, limiting exposure to air pollution, and using a mask when working with chemicals or fumes.
The most common symptoms of COPD are
a chronic or long-lasting cough
shortness of breath, especially when exercising
mucus that comes up when coughing
COPD makes breathing difficult because less air or oxygen gets to your lungs. If you smoke, your airways become thick and inflamed or irritated. Over the years of smoking, the airways are not as elastic or can’t expand well when you breathe. Mucus is produced and blocks the airways, which also makes it difficult to breathe. Some patients may need to have extra oxygen or use an inhaler as the disease gets worse.
Here are a few ways to help a patient with COPD:
show patient pursed lip breathing - breathe with slow and controlled breaths – inhale deeply through nose and exhale through ‘pursed-lips’
do activities slowly and take many breaks
use proper positioning by sitting forward and supporting the arms on the legs when there is difficulty with breathing