Written by Carmen
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and it is a term used
to refer conditions such as Emphysema, chronic asthma and bronchitis.
The main symptoms are breathlessness, chronic cough and producing lots of
phlegm. The main people at risk of developing COPD are smokers and ex-smokers.
Unfortunately there is no cure for COPD, as the damaged airways never
regenerate. However there are things you can do to slow the progression of the
disease and improve symptoms.
The symptoms of COPD:
- breathlessness after exertion
- in severe cases, breathlessness even when at rest
- coughing up sputum
- cyanosis – a blue tinge to the skin caused by insufficient
- increased susceptibility to chest infections
These symptoms usually occur slowly and some people don’t realise that
their breathing is gradually getting worse.
Causes of COPD:
- Cigarette smoke. This is the most significant risk factor for developing
COPD. Even if you are an ex-smoker, you are still at risk and should be
monitoring for any signs of breathlessness.
- Long term exposure to lung irritants (for example chemical vapours)
Treatment will be initiated by your doctor and will usually consist of a
combination of puffers
- Bronchodilators: these include puffers such as Ventolin
and help to open up the airways and relax the lungs
- Corticosteroids: These puffers reduce inflammation in the
lungs and stop swelling
- SPIRIVA: This is the main medication given to sufferers
of COPD. It helps treat symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of
- Cough expectorants: These are useful to help break up an
mucous sitting on the lungs
- Oxygen: If the disease progresses to the very severe
stages then oxygen therapy will be necessary to ensure oxygen levels in the
blood remain at an appropriate level.
Lifestyle tips that can help if you suffer from COPD include:
- 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
- Try to be as physically active as possible. If possible, attend pulmonary
- Follow a COPD action plan.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Make adjustments to your lifestyle and home environment to ensure plenty
- Keep adequately hydrated to help keep the mucus in your lungs runny and
easier to cough up.
- Avoid smoky or dusty environments.
If you are a smoker or ex-smoker and are experiencing any of the symptoms
described here, your local Community Pharmacy pharmacist will be able to
conduct a COPD screening for you, to assess your current risk of developing
Contact your local store for more details.