Have You Heard of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD is currently the third leading cause of death globally. The statistics show the public how common and serious this disease can be.

The main cause of COPD is prolonged exposure to noxious particles or gases, most commonly cigarette smoke. These harmful particles first cause inflammation to the lung. When chronic inflammation happens, it destroys our lung tissues, narrowing our airway, and decreasing the ability for our lungs to recoil. These consequences together make breathing very difficult.

Patients with COPD will often present with coughing, shortness of breath, and frequent sputum production. In addition, COPD is progressive, and symptoms can range from asymptomatic to respiratory failure.

How Do You Know If You Have COPD or Not?

If your family doctor suspects that you have COPD, he or she will likely refer you to a pulmonologist. The specialist will then perform a standard diagnostic test using spirometry. A diagnosis of COPD is confirmed when the forced expiratory volume in one second / forced vital capacity is < 0.7; i.e. (FEV1/FVC < 0.7). Other radiographic imaging such as chest x-ray and CT scan, laboratory tests, physical function tests can also help confirm the diagnosis.

Do You Know Physiotherapists Can Treat COPD?

Patients with COPD are strongly recommended to undergo pulmonary rehabilitation to manage the symptoms, and physiotherapists are one of the critical members in the rehabilitation process. The goals of physiotherapy treatment are to control symptoms, improve quality of life, and reduce exacerbations and mortality. Physiotherapists will educate patients regarding smoking cessation and other behavioral changes. Treatment approaches will also include teaching proper breathing techniques and exercise training.

COPD can be deadly, if the disease is at its late stage, some might require mechanical ventilation or even lung transplant. Routine health screening, avoiding smoking, and maintaining an active lifestyle will keep you away from COPD!

Reference: Agarwal, A. K., Raja, A., & Brown, B. D. (2020). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). StatPearls [Internet].