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Posts Tagged ‘Lung Health’

November is COPD Awareness Month. By Our Student Pharmacist, Paul Matheke.

COPD conditions

You may have seen commercials for medications or heard about a condition called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD. Since November is COPD awareness month, we here at Plain City Druggist wanted to give you a rundown of what COPD is, how you can prevent it, and how it is typically treated. For those patients of ours who already have COPD, we have included some helpful tips for you to be mindful of.

  • What is COPD
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive disease that makes it difficult to breathe.[1] People with COPD often compare it to feeling like they are breathing through a straw.
    • Over 16 million people have COPD in the US.[1]
    • It is the fourth leading cause of death in the US.[1]
    • The symptoms of COPD include:
      • Constant coughing
      • Coughing up sputum (sputum is like mucus)
      • Wheezing
      • Shortness of breath
      • Chest tightness
    • If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are finding it harder to breathe and you are a current/former smoker or exposed to irritants at work, you should follow up with your doctor and request a lung function test.
    • COPD affects your lung function; it makes it harder for your lungs to take in air and give oxygen to your blood.
      • Your lungs contain tubes that air moves through called bronchial tubes. These bronchial tubes have many branches of smaller tubes called bronchioles which have tiny round air sacs at the ends called alveoli, which is where oxygen is taken up into the blood. COPD can involve both the bronchial tubes of your airways and the alveoli sacs[1]
    • COPD includes two different kinds of lung diseases you may have heard of: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
      • Bronchitis – when the bronchial tubes and bronchioles are inflamed, tighter, and clogged with mucus.
      • Emphysema – when the alveoli air sacs are damaged, they lose their ability to stretch and get air in and out.
    • Risk Factors – COPD is often preventable but there are some common risk factors.
      • Smoking – the leading cause of COPD
      • Long-term exposure to lung irritants other than smoking – causes up to 25% of COPD cases![1] Often these non-smoking lung irritants end up causing COPD through prolonged exposure through a person’s occupation. These irritants include things like:
        • Pollution
        • Chemical fumes
        • Dust
      • COPD womenWomen are also at a higher risk of developing COPD.
        • Women are 30% more likely to have COPD than men.[1]
  • Remember: COPD is not just a smokers’ disease!
    • If you work on a farm, in a factory, or other kinds of labor you may be at risk of developing COPD.
    • If you find you are having a harder time breathing and have any of the symptoms of COPD, you should follow up with your doctor.
  • Treatment for COPD
    • Unfortunately, COPD cannot be cured and the lung damage cannot be reversed. However, proper medication therapy and lifestyle changes can slow its progression and improve your quality of life.
    • The most important lifestyle changes you can make to treat your COPD is to stop smoking and to avoid lung-irritants wherever possible. If you are frequently exposed to lung-irritants at work, ensure you wear a mask with particle filters to help reduce the number of irritants you breathe.
    • The most common medications for COPD are inhalers. There are many different kinds of inhalers, often with many different combinations of inhaled medications. The most common kinds of medications found in an inhaler for COPD are:
      • Bronchodilators – these can include either anticholinergic or beta-receptor blocking medications that widen your airways.
      • Steroids – control the lung inflammation that can make it harder to breathe.
    • There are other options your provider may use to help your breathing such as oxygen therapy or pulmonary rehabilitation.

For those who already have COPD, there are some helpful tips we’d like to share with you.

  • Ensure proper inhaler use
    • If you have COPD and use inhalers, you should always make sure you are using your inhalers properly. Always review new inhalers with your doctor and pharmacist to ensure proper use.
    • You may be on multiple inhalers for your COPD. Oftentimes, one inhaler is a controller or “maintenance” inhaler and the other is known as a rescue inhaler that you use as needed for sudden symptom control. Your maintenance inhaler is scheduled for use at certain times and should be used as instructed, not as needed.
    • If you do not have a rescue inhaler, talk to your doctor about getting one. Even if you have not needed one in the past, we recommend that patients have one in case their symptoms were to suddenly get worse.
  • Get vaccinated!
    • If you have COPD, you’ll want to be vaccinated and protected against illnesses that could cause a lot of issues for your lungs. The most important vaccines to make sure you get are your annual flu shot and your pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine. You should also be vaccinated for COVID.
  • Reduce exposure/Stop smoking
    • This is one of the best ways to slow the progression of your COPD and improve your quality of life.
    • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about smoking cessation programs and tips.

References:

[1] NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. COPD. National Institutes of Health. United Sates. Accessed November 7, 2021. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd

COPD