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Planning Retirement Online

 

When breathing is a problem

June 2017

man breathing with oxygen mask

 

COPD is sadly quite common. The letters stand for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which actually covers quite a few problems including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Really it is a term for conditions where the airways become inflamed and the air sacs in the lungs are damaged.

The symptoms can include wheezing especially when breathing out; breathlessness when resting or active; the feeling of a tight chest, a cough or producing more mucus or phlegm than usual.

One of the biggest causes of COPD is smoking and considering how many of us were smokers in our youth, it is not surprising that the problem is more common among older age groups.  But it is not just caused by smoking. Long term exposure to air pollution, fumes or dust from the environment or from where you work can also cause the problem.

COPD is usually the result of these sorts of issues, it is very rarely an inherited problem, although long term asthma can also cause COPD.

Either way doctors now are well aware of the disease and they have some clear tests to check whether you have it and how badly you are affected.

A spirometry test and other equipment can be used to measure the size of your lungs, the width of your airways and the amount of air flowing in and out. This helps determine the best treatment.

COPD is not curable at the moment, but there are a lot of treatments that can help manage the condition.

Giving up smoking is key, and having a good diet is also important of course. Medications include a bronchodilator inhaler which helps to relax the muscles in your airways, and a steroid inhaler which can reduce swelling in the airways.

Medication includes a mucolytic treatment which can reduce the thickness of phlegm, and antibiotics are sometimes prescribed to prevent infection.

Ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen can also be a problem with COPD, and again your doctor can advice on whether this might need to be investigated.

It can be quite a frightening condition but there is a lot of support and help at hand.

British Lung FoundationBreathe Easy may be able to put you in touch with a local support group and there are also specialist nurses and advisers available through the  UK ‘s lung charity The British Lung Foundation who can help. They can be contacted on a dedicated helpline at 03000 030 555 or by visiting their website.



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