Champion Home Health Care in Stuart, FL
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Champion HHC Health Information Library

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COPD

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) makes it hard for you to breathe. The two main types are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The main cause of COPD is long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs. This is usually cigarette smoke. Air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust can also cause it.

At first, COPD may cause no symptoms or only mild symptoms. As the disease gets worse, symptoms usually become more severe. They include

  • A cough that produces a lot of mucus
  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

Doctors use lung function tests, imaging tests, and blood tests to diagnose COPD. There is no cure. Treatments may relieve symptoms. They include medicines, oxygen therapy, surgery, or a lung transplant. Quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to treat COPD.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Emphysema

Emphysema is a type of COPD involving damage to the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. As a result, your body does not get the oxygen it needs. Emphysema makes it hard to catch your breath. You may also have a chronic cough and have trouble breathing during exercise.

The most common cause is cigarette smoking. If you smoke, quitting can help prevent you from getting the disease. If you already have emphysema, not smoking might keep it from getting worse. Treatment is based on whether your symptoms are mild, moderate or severe. Treatments include inhalers, oxygen, medications and sometimes surgery to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

What is pulmonary rehabilitation?

Pulmonary rehabilitation, also known as pulmonary rehab or PR, is a program for people who have chronic (ongoing) breathing problems. It can help improve your ability to function and quality of life. PR does not replace your medical treatment. Instead, you use them together.

PR is often an outpatient program that you do in a hospital or clinic. Some people have PR in their homes. You work with a team of health care providers to find ways to lessen your symptoms, increase your ability to exercise, and make it easier to do your daily activities.

Who needs pulmonary rehabilitation?

Your health care provider may recommend pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) if you have a chronic lung disease or another condition that makes it hard for you to breathe and limits your activities. For example, PR may help you if you

  • Have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The two main types are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In COPD, your airways (tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs) are partially blocked. This makes it hard to get air in and out.
  • Have an interstitial lung disease such as sarcoidosis and pulmonary fibrosis. These diseases cause scarring of the lungs over time. This makes it hard to get enough oxygen.
  • Have cystic fibrosis (CF). CF is an inherited disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to collect in the lungs and block the airways.
  • Need lung surgery. You may have PR before and after lung surgery to help you prepare for and recover from the surgery.
  • Have a muscle-wasting disorder that affects the muscles used for breathing. An example is muscular dystrophy.

PR works best if you start it before your disease is severe. However, even people who have advanced lung disease can benefit from PR.

What does pulmonary rehabilitation include?

When you first start pulmonary rehabilitation (PR), your team of health care providers will want to learn more about your health. You will have lung function, exercise, and possibly blood tests. Your team will go over your medical history and current treatments. They may check on your mental health and ask about your diet. Then they will work together to create a plan that is right for you. It may include

  • Exercise training. Your team will come up with an exercise plan to improve your endurance and muscle strength. You will likely have exercises for both your arms and legs. You might use a treadmill, stationary bike, or weights. You may need to start slowly and increase your exercise as you get stronger.
  • Nutritional counseling. Being either overweight or underweight can affect your breathing. A nutritious eating plan can help you work towards a healthy weight.
  • Education about your disease and how to manage it. This includes learning how to avoid situations that make your symptoms worse, how to avoid infections, and how/when to take your medicines.
  • Techniques you can use to save your energy. Your team may teach you easier ways to do daily tasks. For example, you may learn ways to avoid reaching, lifting, or bending. Those movements make it harder to breathe, since they use up energy and make you tighten your abdominal muscles. You may also learn how to better deal with stress, since stress can also take up energy and affect your breathing.
  • Breathing strategies. You will learn techniques to improve your breathing. These techniques may increase your oxygen levels, decrease how often you take breaths, and keep your airways open longer.
  • Psychological counseling and/or group support. It can feel scary to have trouble breathing. If you have a chronic lung disease, you are more likely to have depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems. Many PR programs include counseling and/or support groups. If not, your PR team may be able to refer you to an organization that offers them.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air.

Symptoms of asthma include

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn't always mean that you have asthma. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on lung function tests, your medical history, and a physical exam. You may also have allergy tests.

When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it's called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the airways that carry air to your lungs. It causes a cough that often brings up mucus. It can also cause shortness of breath, wheezing, a low fever, and chest tightness. There are two main types of bronchitis: acute and chronic.

Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The inflamed bronchial tubes produce a lot of mucus. This leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause. Breathing in air pollution, fumes, or dust over a long period of time may also cause it.

To diagnose chronic bronchitis, your doctor will look at your signs and symptoms and listen to your breathing. You may also have other tests.

Chronic bronchitis is a long-term condition that keeps coming back or never goes away completely. If you smoke, it is important to quit. Treatment can help with your symptoms. It often includes medicines to open your airways and help clear away mucus. You may also need oxygen therapy. Pulmonary rehabilitation may help you manage better in daily life.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute