Primarily found in people ages 65 to 74, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary
Disease (COPD), also known as emphysema, refers to a group of conditions
that lead to airflow blockage and breathing-related problems, chronic
bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronciectasis. Also falling
into the COPD category, chronic lower respiratory disease was the third
leading cause of death in the United States in 2011. Currently fifteen
million Americans say that they have been diagnose with COPD. However,
the number of people with COPD may actually be higher since more than
half of adults with low pulmonary function were not initially aware that
they had COPD. This disease is most common in non-Hispanic whites, women,
current or former smokers, and people with lower incomes. In order to
reduce the risk of developing COPD, one should avoid inhaling tobacco
smoke and air pollutants.
The prevalence of COPD is across all areas of the country, but is above
average in North Carolina: approximately six and a half percent of the
population in N.C. has COPD.
– COPD in Catawba County?
Early diagnosis of COPD is crucial for the patient’s wellbeing, as
approximately half of the patient’s lung function has been lost
before most patients are even diagnosed. Many people do not realize that
they have COPD because they mistaken their coughing and breathlessness
as a normal sign of aging rather than as a diagnosable disease. In fact,
COPD’s early stages, which can last years, often do not display
any symptoms. Most individuals only notice these symptoms in the later
stages of the disease. COPD awareness is crucial; common symptoms are
increased breathlessness, frequent coughing, wheezing, and tightness in
the chest. If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about
taking a spirometry test to see if you have COPD.
After a patient is diagnosed with COPD, the doctor will often prescribe
supplemental oxygen in order to improve breathing quality. There are also
several types of medication available to treat COPD. These medications
come in many forms: pills, capsules, mist, and powder, to name a few.
The majority of people with COPD need to take some form of COPD medicine
each day, regardless of any signs of improvement, so that there can be
long-term success in fighting this disease. There are also breathing techniques,
pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, that the doctor may
recommend in order to decrease anxiety about breathing.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms described
above, make an appointment to get tested for COPD. The sooner the diagnosis,
the better the disease management. Catawba Valley Medical Group has recently
opened a new clinic, Catawba Valley Pulmonology featuring Doctors Alford
and Erwin, in order to meet the community’s respiratory needs