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If you’ve been wondering if you have COPD, it’s important to know the facts and see your doctor for a diagnosis.
KNOW WHAT COPD IS
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and it’s more than just a bad cough or cold. It’s a chronic, progressive disease that affects your lungs and your ability to breathe.
COPD can include one or both of the following conditions:
- Chronic bronchitis – a condition in which the airways in your lungs become inflamed, and you cough up mucus or phlegm often
- Emphysema – a disease that damages the air sacs in the lungs
Learn more about the types of COPD.
UNDERSTAND THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
With COPD, symptoms are usually mild at first, but progress over time. In the beginning, you may think you have a nagging cough, or you’re just “getting older” and you’re having a little more trouble breathing. However, these may be early signs of COPD. There are other signs, too, and it’s important to be aware of them.
Here’s the good news — the sooner you’re diagnosed and treated, the more you may be able to manage your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.
Know more about COPD signs and symptoms.
SEE YOUR DOCTOR FOR A DIAGNOSIS
If you think you may have COPD, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and may give you a breathing (spirometry) test to assess how well your lungs are functioning. Other tests may include chest x-rays, CT scans, and an arterial blood gas test.
Getting diagnosed for COPD early and getting the right treatment can help you manage your symptoms, improve your lung function, and help you stay active.
Not sure how to talk to your doctor about your symptoms? Get helpful tips.
KNOW HOW COPD IS TREATED
There are many types of treatment for COPD. While inhalers tend to be the mainstay of COPD treatment, your doctor may prescribe other options such as pills or solutions that require the use of a nebulizer machine, which turns the solution into a fine mist that you inhale.
A COPD treatment plan often includes:
- A short-acting rescue inhaler for quick, temporary relief when your breathing suddenly worsens
- A daily maintenance inhaler to help you breathe better throughout the day
It’s important to understand that each inhaler is used for a different reason and one does not replace the other.
In addition to COPD inhalers, your doctor may require you to get an annual flu vaccine, and depending on your health history, you may also need to get vaccinated for pneumonia. This is because lung infections from the flu or pneumonia may cause serious COPD flare-ups or exacerbations. If needed, you may also be prescribed other treatments, such as pulmonary rehabilitation to help you learn techniques to breathe better and go about your everyday activities.