Struggle to breathe, it's a disease that affects the lungs and can eventually make the otherwise unconscious effort of breathing seem almost impossible. COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can do damage for decades without giving any noticeable signs that it's there until permanent and irreversible damage has been done.
Initially patients will notice that they can't walk up hills or can't move that long or can't do the shopping that they were used to, but as the disease gets worse patients are more and more restricted and the real severe cases people are really limited, they are so short of breath, they can't do anything else other than just sit in the chair, watch television.
Seventy-two-year-old COPD patient Marvin Tibbitt describes how it feels to lose his breath. To sum it up real fast is just like you're drowning, if you could visualize yourself under water and you've expended all your air in your body, and you need a breath of air, it's not there.
In the 2014–15 ABS National Health Survey (NHS), the prevalence of COPD (captured here as self-reported emphysema and/or bronchitis) in Australians aged 45 and over was 5.1%, an estimated 460,400 people . The prevalence did not differ significantly between males and females (5.2% and 4.9% respectively).
Probably about 90 percent of patients who have COPD have a pretty clear history of cigarette smoking. It's been estimated between 10 and 20 percent of patients who smoke regularly get COPD. But everybody who smokes is at risk. There are very good studies that show that, if we are able to get people to stop smoking the disease course will not be as bad as it would otherwise be. People will not go back to normal but the deterioration in lung function over time will not be as bad.
Here is a typical example of someone who starts smoking when they are young at age 18, the lungs are grown and completely open,
no damage is evident by age 28, there is a consistent cough, sometimes called a smoker's cough,
by the mid to late-40s lung function is beginning to be seriously impaired, and there is difficulty breathing with some simple tasks.
By the 50s, people who perform physical labor for instance find it hard to continue this kind of work and most COPD patients can't walk for long distances and can't lift objects. By the late 50s or early 60s, quality of life is severely impaired. COPD patients assuming they continue to smoke cannot do much of anything in the way of physical activity.
The standard treatments for COPD are medications called POC ( Portable Oxygen Concentrators ). Their main job is to help keep airways relaxed so air flow can be increased, these treatments won’t restore damaged lungs but they can definitely improve the symptoms of COPD. In addition, patients are encouraged to use pulmonary rehabilitation.
Pulmonary rehab is a combination of exercise and education that is geared to promote self-care of patients with pulmonary conditions. Because there is no cure but we don’t want the condition to get worse and then reduce their quality of life any further.
But the bottom line here is simple. people need to stop smoking. It’s terrible and horrible to stop, that’s what you think it is, but you are going to have to want to stop. That’s the key you want to stop, and my advice to people to stop before you get sick.
It’s clear, the dangers of smoking must be communicated long before people pick up their first cigarette. Hopefully as the number of people who smoke decreases the probability of patients suffering from COPD will decrease as well.