COPD is often misunderstood as the symptoms can be caused by different types of lung diseases. Separating the fact from the fiction will help you to understand your condition and help you to liver better and manage your COPD.
COPD is an umbrella term for Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis and Chronic Asthmatic Bronchitis but all three result in obstructed air flow through the lungs.
Common misunderstandings include that it only occurs in older smokers and that nothing can be done about it. Here are four common misconceptions and the truth about them:
Myth or Truth: Only Smokers Get COPD
Long-term smokers do commonly suffer from COPD symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and frequent lung infections. Whilst COPD is normally caused by smoking, this isn’t true for everyone and in different parts of the world it may be more commonly caused by wood smoke from cooking fires. Other causes include:
• Progressive forms of asthma
• Being born without a protein called alpa-1 antitrypsin
• Workplace exposure to gases and fumes
• Heavy exposure to second-hand smoke or air pollution
Myth or Truth: COPD Only Occurs in Older People
COPD is more common in older people who have smoked for many years. However younger people can develop COPD and a lung test can detect early changes and provide early detection. Even before COPD symptoms develop, the early changes of emphysema or bronchitis may be present and COPD can be diagnosed in people as young as 30.
Myth or Truth: People With COPD Need to Slow Down
COPD symptoms may make some types of activity difficult, but slowing down is not good for those with COPD. Physical therapy, including breathing exercises and exercises to strengthen the arms and shoulders, can be an important part of treatment. Regular exercise along with a healthy diet helps muscles stay strong, and that reduces the demand placed on the lungs.
People with COPD should also try to stay active socially. Isolating yourself at home can lead to depression, which can make symptoms worse. It is important to stay in touch with friends and family and maintain a good support network. Many people with COPD also benefit from participating in support groups.
The correct use of supplemental oxygen at home can make life a lot easier, especially with the use of portable concentrators so that you can still go out and exercise and do daily activities whilst still using oxygen. There are different types of equipment and accessories that the oxygen supplier can provide to help improve your quality of life so that you don’t have to slow down.
Myth or Truth: There Is No Treatment for COPD
This is the biggest myth about COPD – that you can’t do anything about it. Although there is no cure for COPD, it can be treated and managed in many people. It does depend upon how advanced the disease is and whether you are suffering from any other possibly complicating diseases such as hypertension, heart disease or diabetes. You can slow down the progression of COPD by:
• Taking medication as directed
• Getting pulmonary rehabilitation
• Using oxygen as needed
• Stopping smoking
With these changes, many people are able to manage their COPD symptoms well. If you smoke, even if you are still in your 30s, ask your doctor to check your lung capacity. It’s never too late to quit as when you do, your lung capacity immediately begins to improve, however there may have been some irreversible changes to your lungs already if early stages of COPD have already set in. Many of the irreversible effects of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic asthmatic bronchitis can be avoided with early diagnosis and treatment.