What is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)?
COPD includes several conditions, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and even asthma. Smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco can severely damage your lungs. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) occurs when a person’s lungs are so damaged that they struggle to move enough oxygen into and out of the lungs making breathing difficult. This is often caused by smoking and involves the airways becoming clogged, either by a buildup of mucus or through inflammation in the lung walls. Smoking can even destroy these walls of the air sacs (which transport oxygen into the blood) or damage their ability to stretch and shrink.
Seventy Five (75%) percent of those who suffer from COPD are smokers and continued smoking can advance the disease further. Unfortunately, thirty nine (39%) percent of those diagnosed still smoke even though the lung damage is irreversible; however, by working closely with Allied Clinical Research to obtain treatment for your COPD, you may be able to help get your symptoms under control.
COPD symptoms can be varied. However, common preliminary symptoms include:
- A chronic cough
- Unusual shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
- Wheezing or whistling when attempting to breathe
- Tightness in the chest
- Unusual production of mucus on most days of the week
More severe symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath while talking or resting
- Blue or grey lips and/or fingernails
- Cognitive impairment
- Heightened heartbeat
- Swollen feet or ankles
- Unusual weight loss
The single most effective treatment for COPD is quitting smoking, but Allied Clinical Research’s healthcare providers and clinical research team can assist in setting up the best plan for you based upon your symptoms and your needs. Treatments include mild exercise and nutritional training, bronchodilators (inhalers) to help open airways, and steroid drugs. Severe cases of COPD can be treated by oxygen therapy or even surgery.
Bronchodilators relax the muscles around the airways (breathing tubes). When the airways are more open, it is easier to breathe. There are two general types of bronchodilators, and you may be prescribed one or more types:
- Short-Acting bronchodilators work quickly after you take them so that you feel relief from symptoms quickly.
- Long-Acting bronchodilators have effects that last a long time and there are a few different types. They should not be used for quick relief.
Anti-Inflammatory medicines help by reducing the swelling and mucus production inside the airways. When that inflammation is reduced, it is easier to breathe. The most common of these medicines are called corticosteroids or steroids. Most often, these are inhaled medications and it is important to rinse out your mouth with water immediately after using them to avoid getting a yeast infection in your throat called thrush. Some corticosteroids are in pill form and usually are used for short periods of time in special circumstances, such as when your symptoms are getting worse.
There are a few medicines that combine inhaled bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids.
By partnering with Allied Clinical Research you will have access to medications that are at the forefront of medicine!
How To Get The Most Out Of Your COPD Medicine
COPD medications do not cure COPD, but they can help improve your symptoms. The most important thing is to take your medicine(s) exactly as Allied’s healthcare provider has instructed you to take them. That means, each day, taking the right medicine at the right time and with the proper technique!
A Pound of Prevention Goes a Long Way
Because COPD is exacerbated by exposure to second-hand smoke, it is crucially important for those who suffer from it to avoid areas where tobacco use is common and encourage those around them to refrain from smoking. Additionally, getting pneumonia and flu vaccinations can prevent further lung damage by protecting the tissue from complications of these infections.
Smoking Cessation Tactics
Tobacco smoking is certainly a challenging habit to break, but not only is it possible, it’s necessary to protect the health of your lungs. Thankfully, there are several effective tactics to facilitate this process.
Previous smokers have successfully utilize forms of nicotine replacement therapy. This can include using nicotine gum, patches, lozenges, or inhalers. These help former smokers slowly ween themselves off their addiction to nicotine without suffering from the more toxic effects of tobacco smoking.
In addition, some medications, such as Bupropion (Zyban) and Varenicline (Chantix) can ease the cessation process. Buproprion is taken orally for six months to a year after quitting smoking and helps prevent cravings. Varencicline, on the other hand, targets the physical effects of nicotine withdrawal and is only taken for between three and six months. Like all medications, these treatments come with a range of side effects and should be discussed with a doctor.
Many people have also used behavior modification or ‘brain training’ to help them stop smoking, or rather, curb the triggers that keep a person smoking. Disassociating activities done in conjunction with smoking (ie. Drinking coffee while smoking, driving a vehicle while smoking, and smoking immediately after a meal) helps to modify one’s brain patterns by breaking the strong association and can lead to a change in behavior. Additionally, avoiding certain activities (ex: drinking alcohol) that were commonly associated with smoking can also help immensely.