COPD refers to chronic pulmonary disease, which is a chronic lung condition that causes shortness of breath in people. This breathlessness can be experienced either when the person is sitting and relaxing, or when a person performs an activity like exercising or walking. Overall, this kind of problem leads to panic and also hampers the quality of life of a person.
Types of COPD
COPD is a group of lung conditions. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
In chronic bronchitis, the lining surrounding your airway gets inflamed and can even become inflexible overtime. This causes irritation, and, as airway is partially constricted, one can observe quite a lot of mucus accumulation.
In emphysema, the area which is responsible for oxygen supply and the releasing of carbon dioxide becomes smaller as the air sac walls gets damaged. Therefore, the lungs basically will not have sufficient air required for breathing, and this makes a person tired.
Both conditions attack the lungs in different ways, and both the problems causes breathlessness.
Thus, shortness of breath, also known as dyspnea, is an important characteristic of chronic pulmonary disease. It occurs because the lungs, which usually supply oxygen to different parts of the body, are damaged and hence inefficient in their function.
Symptoms of COPD vary in intensity and are usually episodic. Many of the symptoms of COPD are slow to develop, and people take time to even recognize them as unusual. Eventually more advanced and severe symptoms start to appear, and by the time a person realizes the reason behind these symptoms, the lungs would have been damaged.
Although chronic cough is the initial symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and most commonly seen in people who smoke regularly, shortness of breath makes people with this condition perform their normal activities with difficulty. Sometimes people might develop wheezing, similar to when they have asthma. A tightening effect can be felt in the chest, coupled with breathlessness while exercising.
Shortness of Breath
People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can experience shortness of breath, because, when the airways in the lungs become inflamed, swollen, and damaged, they will constrict, making the people with the condition find it difficult to catch their breath or to breathe.
The airways are tubes that carry air to and from the lungs via the nose and mouth. In a healthy person, the airways and air sacs are elastic, so they bounce back to the original form and shape after being filled with air and stretched. The elastic quality of these structures helps maintain the normal structure of the lungs, as well as helps to move the air swiftly in and out.
Meanwhile, the air sacs in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are no longer able to return to their original shape. The airways can become thicker than normal or swollen, and there will be an increase in mucus production. As a result, the airways become obstructed or blocked, making it harder to get the air out of the lungs.
Shortness of breath in COPD initially occurs during exertion and then increases progressively alongside airflow obstruction. Shortness of breath can also be caused by remodeling airways and sputum hyper secretion.
Shortness of breath is most evident during increased physical activity, as well as difficulty while performing routine daily tasks, including doing household chores, walking, bathing, or dressing. Severe shortness of breath can occur while a person is at rest. Lastly, shortness of breath makes a person with COPD to avoid physical activities and exercise that can aggravate this symptom.
Shortness of breath can also be described as:
- Hunger for air
- Additional effort needed to breathe
- Gasping for air
- A feeling of heaviness on the chest
These symptoms of COPD can be very uncomfortable. In addition, shortness of breath can make an individual feel frightened and anxious. They can also experience lack of good quality sleep, loss of appetite, and depression.
A lot of people with COPD have shortness of breath caused by chronic bronchitis and emphysema. For these people, having more shortness of breath than usual is a sign of a COPD flare up or an acute exacerbation. Shortness of breath caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can be treated in several ways.
How to monitor and control breathlessness caused by COPD
Curing COPD is quite impossible, as the lungs would already be damaged and the air sacks mostly blocked by the time the problem is detected. However, breathlessness can be reduced and one can try and continue their routine activities by following certain measures.
- Though exercising might increase your breathlessness, completely avoiding it might cause more problems to your body. Loss of flexibility and strength can reduce your immunity to a greater extent. Thus, exercising only as much your body can take and not overdoing anything can help you breathe normally, while increasing your stamina.
- Respiratory problems are mostly related to your breathing. For this reason, there are specialists, who can teach you some techniques to help you breathe better and retain some breath when you are physically stable so that catching up on breath when you actually need it will not be a problem.
- As much as possible, try to be in an environment where you can breathe clean air. Though it is pretty hard in cities due to the pollution, exhaust fumes, smoke, and toxins released by companies, avoiding breathing these things can help you stay healthier a while longer.
- One of the major causes which increases the breathlessness problem supplemented by COPD is regular smoking. Smoking should be stopped altogether if you have breathing issues. Though it might seem hard in the beginning, a strong determination to be healthy and grow stronger can help you quit smoking. Smoke fumes are not only harmful for you, but also to other passive smokers around you.
Though COPD is a serious problem which cannot usually be resolved, controlling the breathlessness caused by it is in your hands. Take tips and advice from your doctor regularly, and also follow the above-mentioned measures for some relief.