By DOUG GILES, DPT
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. The term progressive means the disease gets worse over time. Unfortunately, COPD has no cure yet, and there is no know way to reverse the damage to the airways and lungs. However, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke, or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust—also may contribute to COPD.
COPD is a major cause of disability, and it’s the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Currently, millions of people are diagnosed with COPD. Many more people may have the disease and not even know it.
The disease can affect the whole body and lead to weakness in the arms and legs. A person with COPD can also develop balance problems with an increased risk of falls as well as nutritional problems leading to significant weight loss or weight gain.
People with COPD are likely to have other health problems that can make the effects of COPD worse, such as reduced blood supply to the heart, high blood pressure, depression, lung cancer and osteoporosis.
COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.
COPD includes two main conditions—emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Most people who have COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Thus, the general term “COPD” is more commonly used.
Over time, COPD leads to greater and greater decline in physical function, partly because of increased shortness of breath and loss of muscle.
There are 4 stages of COPD: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. These asre based on measurements of the amount or flow of air as you inhale and exhale. People with more advanced COPD may need to take medications and need supplemental oxygen.
COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities. Severe COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, cooking, or taking care of yourself.
Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older adults. The disease isn’t passed from person to person—you can’t catch it from someone else.
Physical therapy for COPD is called pulmonary rehabilitation. Research shows that a well designed pulmonary rehab program can improve shortness of breath, quality of life, and provide you with strategies for coping with COPD.
Your physical therapist will serve as an important member of your health care team and will work closely with you to design a program that takes into account your goals for treatment. The physical therapists’ goal is to help our patients with COPD feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.
They also encourage patients to develop good exercise and lifestyle habits that go a long way in helping to slow down the progression of this disease.
Doug Giles, DPT is a licensed physical therapist and has his Doctorate in Physical Therapy. He sees patients at FIT Physical Therapy located at 475 N. Moapa Valley Blvd in Overton. He can be reached at 702-397-6700.