The truth about COPD
When cigarette smoking becomes primary culprit
If you think you need more reasons to quit smoking, read on and think again – especially if you find yourself wheezing even after a short walk or coughing almost regularly. It’s about time you got your lungs checked, as you may have developed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,otherwise known as COPD. COPD is a term used to describe two pulmonary conditions—chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD is not asthma
COPD is often confused with other lung problems, especially asthma. Although both diseases bring about difficulty in breathing, coughing and wheezing, they are not the same. Thus, the modes of treatment are different for COPD and asthma. The lungs of COPD patients can be likened to a balloon. Like an inflated balloon, air sacs in the lungs are stretched to their limits until they eventually burst. Air inside the lungs is trapped, leaving no room for new air. Unlike asthma patients who recover near-normal functions of their lungs after an attack, COPD patients get worse over time as their damaged lungs cannot recover.
COPD is primarily due to cigarette smoking, but breathing in second-hand smoke, fumes of certain chemicals, dust and cigar also increases the risk for developing this condition. COPD makes it harder for you to breathe because the damaged airways get tight, swollen and filled with mucous. At first, a person with COPD may disregard the symptoms because they are still manageable. Then the condition gets progressively worse, limiting his/her activities. Patients will feel that they are increasingly out of breath even with their regular activities such as walking, doing household chores andgrocery shopping. Soon, even the simplest activity will leave them breathless.
How is COPD managed?
Elizabeth Medical Centre, the President of the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Association (Singapore), a COPD patient who quits smoking earlier will have a slower decline in lung function.
However, due to the addictive properties of nicotine,quitting smoking is easier said than done. According to Dr Lim Kai Toh, a Senior Product Physician from Pfi zer Singapore, they have learned from the national smoking cessation programmes in Singapore and clinical trials that most smokers who try to stop, attempts to quit before they eventually succeed.
To date, COPD has no cure. However, medications and lifestyle changes allow COPD patients to manage their symptoms. When treated early, COPD is more controllable, helping patients to live longer and suffer less. Smoking cessation is key to COPD management.