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How to Know if You Have COPD

One of the most common questions I get as a pulmonary specialist is “How do I know if I have COPD?”

Before I get into that, let me explain exactly what it is.

What is COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a fancy way of saying it’s a recurring lung disease that includes affects the lungs and causes reduced airflow, which makes it hard to breathe. Also, is progressive, which means that it gets worse over time. COPD include chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both.

What causes COPD?

The obvious reason is tobacco smoking, but COPD can also be caused by biomass exposure (things like wood-burning stoves, smoke from nearby forest fires and agricultural burning, secondhand smoke, air pollution, and exposure to fumes and dusts.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. And that stat is only getting worse, as we expect COPD to become the third leading cause of death in the next 20 years.

How to Know if You Have COPD

So, if you think you might have a COPD, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you find it difficult to breathe, have coughing fits, or spit up a mixture of saliva  and mucus consistently for multiple days?
  • Do these episodes happen mostly at night or upon awakening?
  • Do these, as we call them in the field—COPD exacerbations—interrupt your quality of life on a consistent basis?

Of course, you should never self diagnose. It’s impossible to say whether you actually do have a COPD or not unless you make an appointment with a qualified pulmonary specialist (like myself, cough, cough, hint, hint). But, if you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, there’s a good chance you might.

But with the proper treatment, these COPD symptoms can improve.

Ways to Prevent COPD

Here’s the good news. There are steps you can take right now to help reduce your chance:

  • Stop smoking – the most common cause of COPD  is cigarette smoking. One of the best ways to prevent COPD is to never start, or to quit smoking.
  • If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, make sure it’s well ventilated.
  • Stay indoors if there’s noticeable air pollution outside, such as smog or a nearby wildfire.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke.
  • If you’re consistently exposed to chemical fumes and dust at your job, talk to your supervisor about respiratory protective equipment and other ways to protect yourself.

If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, or think you might have it, here are ways to slow its progression:

  • Learn breathing strategies
  • Get psychological counseling
  • COPD education
  • Treatments such as steroids, antibiotics, flu and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines, bronchodilators (inhalers), and alpha-1 antitrypsin protein infusions.
  • Oxygen therapy (for severe COPD or  low level of oxygen in your blood)
  • Surgery (for severe, crippling cases of COPD only)

Living with COPD isn’t the end of the world, even though you may feel like it. There are options to help you improve your quality of life. But the first step is to get diagnosed.

If you think you might have COPD, please give me a call at (423) 710-3864. Or make an appointment online. Let’s get acquainted and and see how we can tackle this together. I’ll be with you every step of the way.