All About COPD

COPD is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult
In New Zealand, around 1 in 6 Kiwi's suffer with a respiratory disease. COPD affects hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders, yet most have never even heard of it. Respiratory disease is the third leading cause of deaths in New Zealand.

Currently there is no cure for COPD, however there are lots of things you can do to manage it better so that it doesn't impact on your life too much. The first step is to learn as much as you can about the condition and the steps you can put in place to control it.

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (sometimes referred to as CORD, Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease or COAD Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease). It is an umbrella term for chronic lung diseases covering the following:

  • Chronic asthma
  • Chronic emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis
A diagnosis of COPD means that you have damage to the small airways of your lungs, meaning they are narrower, making it much harder to move the air in and out of your lungs. Symptoms usually start to appear around 40-50 years of age. Smoking is a major contributor to COPD and continuing to smoke after a diagnosis of COPD will continue to make symptoms worse.
Illustration courtesy of HealthFlex Home Health Services

Symptoms of COPD

There are some key symptoms of COPD. You may have only one of these symptoms, or you may have a combination. They may be continuous, intermittent or periodic:
  • Shortness of breath – feeling puffed
  • Coughing
  • Lung secretions – due to the damaged airways producing more mucus than normal
Remember, everyone who feels puffed does not necessarily have COPD and everyone with COPD does not necessarily feel puffed.

Treatment of COPD

Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD as the damage to your lungs cannot be reversed. It is a progressive illness, meaning that the symptoms are likely to worsen over time. However, cessation of smoking and doing all you can to look after your lungs will work towards slowing down this progression and improve quality of life.

Medications

Medications are available from your doctor to help manage and control the symptoms. Discuss with your doctor which medications would be best for you.

Stop Smoking

Smoking cessation will improve the health of your lungs and slow down the progression of COPD. If you continue to smoke your symptoms will progress far more quickly. If you need help with quitting, call us and we can help you, or check out websites such as Once 4 All.

Activity and Exercise

Exercise is actually imperative for people who suffer from COPD. Those who exercise regularly have better breathing, fewer symptoms and a better quality of life. Asthma Waikato understands the importance of this and we offer an exercise and support group run by an exercise instructor which you are welcome to attend.

Social Support

A diagnosis of COPD can often lead to feelings of depression and worry. It can become isolating if social support is not actively sought. Here at Asthma Waikato we know how isolating COPD can make people feel and our COPD exercise and support group is there to help people connect with each other and build friendships and support.
If you need more information about COPD then please contact us and we can send you some information booklets that will help you understand better.
Do you need to know more about COPD? Need to talk to a Nurse?
Are you struggling with COPD? Alternatively, you have ideas of how we might be able to help you help us continue working with people and families in the Waikato with asthma or COPD? Whatever it is, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


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