Know if your Lungs are at Risk this World COPD Day
COPD or Common Inflammatory Lung Disease can be described as a group of problems that affect your lungs and cause breathing difficulties. It is a type of obstructive respiratory disease that is hard to recognise during its initial stages because of common symptoms. People who do not pay close attention to their health and ignore small signs often fail to catch the illness until it has done substantial harm to their lungs. It is not ideal because, like any other sickness, the later you identify COPD, the harder it becomes to treat this health problem.
So, on this COPD day that is celebrated on Nov 17, let's zone in on the signs, symptoms, and diagnosis of COPD to ensure a good life for you and your loved ones. Here you go!
What is COPD?
COPD is not a single disease but rather a set of three or more different conditions. They include emphysema – which damages the air sacs in your lungs and chronic bronchitis – ongoing inflammation in tubes responsible for bringing in air. These illnesses harm your respiratory system and make it hard for you to breathe over time.
With several high-risk factors and comorbid conditions, the likeliness that you may develop COPD if you are living in India is relatively high. The reports suggest the number of cases of COPD in this country increased from 28.1 million in 1990 to 55.3 million in 2016. The rising tally is proof of the need to be vigilant of COPD's signs and symptoms.
How can you know if you have COPD?
The signs of COPD are not very noticeable, especially at the initial stages. In fact, they can be easily misread as the symptoms of getting old. It is why many people fail to detect that something is wrong with their bodies until it is quite late. However, if you want to live a healthy and fulfilling life, then you should be aware. It would help if you kept your eyes open for the following warnings:
● Non-productive Cough
One of the many signs of COPD is chronic or long-time cough. If you cannot stop coughing even after resting and taking continuous medication, then you may want to visit your respiratory doctor.
● Shortness of Breath
It can be described as difficulty in inhaling and exhaling air when you exert yourself. Although it might seem like a sign that you are not as fit as you used to be, shortness of breath is a common symptom of COPD.
If you feel more fatigued than you used to, and even the smallest of actions tire you out, then you should get a diagnosis.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it is advised to visit your respiratory healthcare doctor and get your lungs diagnosed.
How is COPD diagnosed at the hospital?
When you first visit your doctor, one of the many things you will be asked is your family history. Your healthcare expert will want to know if someone in your family has had COPD.
Next, you will be questioned if you have experienced any of the common symptoms of COPD in the past few months. For example, do you have shortness of breath, cough, mucus, a tight feeling in your chest, and fatigue? Based on these signs and whether or not they are deteriorating over time, he will decide upon the future course of treatment.
Besides this, some patients are also quizzed on their smoking habits and exposure to biomass fumes. This is a significant question because breathing in polluted and unclean air is one of the biggest factors of COPD. If your answers sound worrisome and hint that you are sick, you will be recommended some tests. They will aid in determining the symptoms of COPD and in ruling out other diseases. The exams you will undergo will include:
● Chest Exam
This will include a visual examination of your chest. During the test, the doctor will listen for anything unusual, like a wheezing noise.
To test how fast you can blow air out of your lungs, you will be asked to take a deep breath and blow hard into a mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is connected to a small machine called a spirometer that measures the amount of air you breathe in and out.
Your doctor may conduct an x-ray of your chest to know if your lungs have any issues. Here, he will look for hyper-inflated lungs or flattening of the diaphragm as these may be seen in COPD cases.
● Chest CT Scan
A CT scan is a more detailed examination where a scanner creates a picture of your chest.
● Arterial Blood Gas Test
The test is conducted to know if you have enough oxygen and carbon dioxide flowing through your blood. If not, then it is likely that you have COPD.
● Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Test
Your doctor can recommend this test to know about the presence of protein AAT that is responsible for saving your lungs from COPD.
● 6-min Walk Test
You are asked to walk for six minutes to determine how much exercise you can safely do.
Based on the results of these tests, your respiratory healthcare expert will determine whether you have COPD. If he is convinced that you are dealing with this breathing issue, you might be recommended treatments like the use of inhalers or non-invasive ventilators, depending upon the severity of the situation.
COPD is a serious condition that cannot be cured permanently. However, with the early diagnosis and proper treatment, you can definitely increase your chances of living a good-quality life. Your doctor can help improve your condition and suggest treatments that can curb the symptoms. So, if you are vulnerable to COPD because of your family history and are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, visit your respiratory healthcare expert and get diagnosed for COPD!
Disclaimer: The facts and information contained in this article are obtained from reputed medical research organizations and do not necessarily reflect the opinions & beliefs of ResMed. The content here should not be taken as medical advice. The content is for informational purposes only and because each person is so unique, please consult a healthcare professional for any medical queries.