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AirPhysio Blog

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – Conditions, Types and Treatments

Chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a number of lung diseases that prevent proper breathing.

3 of the Most Common Conditions of COPD are:

These conditions are not fully reversible but are manageable if treated correctly.

These conditions can occur separately or together. The main symptoms are breathlessness, chronic cough and sputum production. Cigarette smokers and ex-smokers are most at risk.

Worldwide, COPD affects 329 million people or nearly 5% of the population. In 2013, it resulted in 2.9 million deaths up from 2.4 million deaths in 1990. The number of deaths is projected to increase due to higher smoking rates and an aging population in many countries. It resulted in an estimated economic cost of $2.1 trillion in 2010.

Causes and Risk Factors of COPD

Some of the causes and risk factors of COPD include:

  • Cigarette smoking – the most significant risk factor. Around 20 to 25 per cent of smokers will develop COPD. Ex-smokers remain at risk and should be aware of symptoms of breathlessness.
  • Long-term exposure to lung irritants – such as chemical vapours or dust from grain or wood. Severe air pollution can make COPD worse in smokers.
  • Long Term Exposure to Air Pollution – Common air pollutants like Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and particle matter (PM10 and PM2.5) can all lead to short and long term effects to the lungs, leading to the degradation of the lungs and development of Chronic Obstructive Disease (COPD).
  • Genes – a genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency can trigger emphysema, even if no other risk factors are present.

Complications of COPD

A person with COPD is at increased risk of a number of complications, including:

  • Chest infections – a common cold or flu, can easily lead to a severe infection
  • Pneumonia – a lung infection that targets the alveoli and bronchioles
  • Collapsed lung – the lung may develop an air pocket. If the air pocket bursts during a coughing fit, the lung will deflate, similar to Atelectasis.
  • Heart problems – the heart has to work extremely hard to pump blood through the lungs to maintain the carbon dioxide/oxygen balance.
  • Osteoporosis – where bones become thin and break more easily. Steroid use in people with COPD is thought to contribute to osteoporosis.
  • Anxiety and depression – breathlessness or the fear of breathlessness can often lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
  • Oedema (fluid retention) – problems with blood circulation can cause fluid to pool, particularly in the feet and ankles
  • Hypoxaemia – caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. Symptoms include cognitive difficulties such as confusion, memory lapses and depression.
  • Risks of a sedentary lifestyle – as symptoms of COPD progress, many people adjust their lifestyle to avoid symptoms. For example, they reduce their physical activity to avoid breathlessness. As they reduce their physical activity, they become less fit and even more breathless on exertion. This downward spiral of inactivity means the person is prone to a range of potentially serious health problems, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Changes to Lifestyle to assist in the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

A person with COPD needs to make a number of important lifestyle changes, including:

Quit smoking – techniques can include ‘cold turkey’, counselling, nicotine replacement therapy and medications that work on brain receptors. Evidence shows that counselling, together with medical therapy, is most effective.

Increase Physical Activity – try to be as physically active as possible. If possible, attend pulmonary rehabilitation, similar to using the AirPhysio PEP device.

COPD Action Plan – Follow a COPD action plan.

Change Diet – Eat a healthy diet and try to avoid foods with possible irritants, as mentioned in the Asthma article.

Plenty of Rest – Make adjustments to your lifestyle and home environment to ensure plenty of rest.

Improve Hydration – Keep adequately hydrated to help keep the mucus in your lungs runny and easier to cough up.

Avoid Irritants – Avoid smoky, dusty, pollen or environments with other irritants.

Join a support group – call Lung Foundation Australia (Tel. 1800 654 301) for information on a support group close to you.

How Does AirPhysio Help Treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

AirPhysio assists in 2 distinct ways:

1. Firstly the clearance process of AirPhysio assists in clearing any blockage or build-up of excess mucus through the 2 stage mobilization and elimination method.

2. Secondly, the vibration or flutter effect of the AirPhysio, including the deep breathing method assist in conditioning the airway and assists to improve lung capacity through a physiotherapy method of exercising the lungs, similar to exercise.

For more information about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)please refer to the following web pages and articles: 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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