COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the #3 killer of Americans. More than 12 million Americans are diagnosed, and experts believe another 12 million people are undiagnosed. Are you one of those 12 million?
COPD is a fatal disease that interferes with normal breathing, but there are treatments that will help you to live a longer and more normal life. How do you know if you should talk to your doctor? Let’s start with the symptoms and risk factors for COPD.
COPD includes the more familiar conditions of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and smoker’s cough. If you have at least three months a year of coughing with mucus production for two years, you need to talk to your doctor.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, and frequent respiratory infections. You may clear your throat upon rising and produce clear, white, yellow or greenish mucus (sputum). You may notice that your lips or fingernail beds are blueish, and your legs and feet swell. Lack of energy and unintended weight loss may also accompany the rest of the symptoms.
COPD Risk Factors
The most common risk factor for COPD is exposure to tobacco smoke and long-cigarette smoking. Anyone who smokes or is exposed to smoke is at risk and the more smoke, the greater the risk. If you have asthma and are exposed to smoke, you are at increased risk.
Smokers are not the only people at risk. If you are exposed regularly to chemical fumes, vapors and excessive dust, or smoke from other sources including fires and burning fuel, your risk increases.
COPD is a disease of slow progression, so most people are at least 40 when they begin to notice symptoms.
There is also a rare genetic disorder that causes COPD.
How Do I Find Out if I Have COPD?
The test for COPD is simple. Doctors will measure how deeply you can breathe and how quickly your lungs move air (spirometry). The benefit of spirometry is that it can detect COPD before you have any symptoms. You may also get a chest x-ray, CT scan, or arterial blood gas analysis.
What Are COPD Treatments?
The first treatment in managing COPD is to stop smoking or being exposed to smoke or other irritants. There are also medications that will help reduce airway inflammation. You may also use supplemental oxygen via a mask or canula. Your doctor may also recommend education, exercise, improved nutrition, and counseling. In some cases, there are surgeries that can help.
The newest treatment is the use of stem cell therapy. Your own stem cells are introduced to your lungs where they hopefully encourage your body to heal damaged tissues. A pilot study indicates that 82% of recipients saw quality of life improvements after treatment.
Finding Treatment Options
Begin with an internet search for options. You may want a second opinion or to be referred to a specialist. If you are interested in stem cell therapy, it is still an experimental treatment and most insurances won’t cover it. Also, go to a doctor for your stem cell therapy. There are many “clinics” that operated without medical supervision, so research them before you spend the money.
Your doctor is an expert, but it is your life, so start a search today for more information.