COPD Treatments, Symptoms and Causes

  • November 1, 2021
COPD Treatment

Why do COPD symptoms aggravate in winter?

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is blanket term for a group of progressive lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. A COPD patient finds it more and more difficult to breathe as the disease progresses. Since the lung damage can’t be reversed, treatment protocols for COPD involve medication and lifestyle changes to help manage the symptoms.

Winter is the riskiest season for COPD patients

Air quality and weather pattern changes are major triggers for people with respiratory illnesses. Winter is most definitely the riskiest time of the year for COPD patients. Biting cold and strong winds can severely exacerbate respiratory distress for them. Cold weather also tends to constrict the blood vessels as the body’s natural reaction to sudden temperature drops, to restrict blood flow and keep the body warm in its core parts. This could limit oxygen supply to other parts of the body and COPD patients can be miserable when faced with a lack of oxygen. This could even lead to serious complications.

Who are vulnerable?

The overwhelming cause of COPD is smoking. Other high-risk groups include:

  • If you are a woman.
  • If you are over 65.
  • If you have been exposed to air pollution.
  • If you have worked with chemicals, dust or fumes.
  • If you have genetic risk factor to develop COPD, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AAT).
  • If you had frequent respiratory infections as a child.

What are warning signs that you might have COPD?

  • Prolonged cough with mucus.
  • Difficulty breathing deep.
  • Shortness of breath on mild exertion like walking or climbing stairs.
  • Breathlessness during routine daily activities.
  • Wheezing

Diagnosis of COPD

The doctor usually takes your medical history, performs a physical examination and prescribes some tests.

Tests to confirm COPD

Some of the routine tests used are:

Spirometry : The patient has to blow air into a tube attached to a machine. This lung-function test (LFT) measures the quantum of air you can breathe out and the speed of it.

Pulse oximetry: This measures the oxygen level in your blood.

Arterial blood gases: This is to measure your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Electrocardiogram: This test evaluates your heart function to rule out heart disease as a cause of breathing distress.

Chest X-ray or chest CT scan: Imaging tools to look for changes in the lungs that could be caused by COPD.

Exercise testing: This test will reveal if the oxygen level in your blood drops during exercise.

Treatment options for COPD

COPD treatment protocols are focused on relieving the main symptoms, coughing and breathing problems, besides averting respiratory infections. Doctors can advise:

Bronchodilators: These are inhaler medications to relax the airways and help you breathe easier.

Anti-inflammatory medicines: Steroids are very common in treatment of COPD to control inflammation in the lungs. These can be inhaled with a nebulizer or inhaler or taken in pill form.

Oxygen support: If the patient has low blood oxygen or hypoxemia, a portable oxygen tank is used to boost oxygen levels.

Antibiotics: The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to stop a bacterial infection, since a lung infection can damage the weakened lungs even more.

Vaccines: Doctors advice annual flu and pneumonia shots since respiratory infections are extremely dangerous for COPD patients.

Rehabilitation: Rehab programmes are based on teaching effective breathing techniques to ease shortness of breath. Such exercises can gradually improve lung capacity.

Anticholinergics: These are used torelax the muscle bands that grip the airways tightly. The airways are opened, letting more air in and out of the lungs to help improve breathing. Anticholinergics also help to clear mucus from the lungs.

Leukotriene modifiers: Leukotrienes are chemicals naturally found in our bodies which cause tightening of airway muscles, producing mucus and fluid. These medicines block the chemicals to soften such reactions and help improve airflow.

Expectorants: These medications dilutemucus in the airways, enabling the patient to cough it out more easily.

Antihistamines: These medications help inrelieving symptoms like stuffy head, watery eyes, and sneezing.

Antivirals: Sometimes, the doctormight prescribe antiviral medications, mainly to ward off or treat influenza, which is particularly dangerous for COPD patients.

For patients with COPD, it is extremely important to take extra precautions during winter, since cold air can play havoc with your lung health. The dryness of the cold air is tough on all those with chronic lung disease, since dry air irritates the airways, leading to wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. When you step out in cold weather, it is advisable to wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth to warm the air entering your lungs. You should breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to stay comfortable.

If you are suffering from COPD, it is recommended to remain under the supervision of a Pulmonologist (Respiratory Medicine Specialist), and treat sudden and acute symptoms as medical emergency.  

At Medica Ranchi, we provide round-the-clock facilities for COPD treatment and managing acute/chronic symptoms by experienced specialists.

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