Have you been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or worried you have symptoms? If so, you’ve probably heard many stories about the disease and what’s involved with treatment.
COPD is actually a group of pulmonary diseases rather than one condition. The two most common forms of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Among other symptoms, this disease causes difficulty breathing, cough with mucus, and tightness in your chest.
At Girard Internal Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, board-certified physician Nicole Kimzey, DO, and our team treats COPD as part of our complete line of internal medicine services. Dr. Kimzey also wants you to have the facts when it comes to your pulmonary health. Keep reading to learn myth from fact and the treatments that can help your COPD.
MYTH 1: Only smokers get COPD
FACT: While tobacco smoke is, in fact, the leading cause of COPD, smokers aren’t the only ones to develop this disease.
Over 65 million people around the world have COPD, and not all of them are smokers. People exposed to tobacco smoke through secondhand smoke can get COPD, as can these common causes:
If you’re a smoker diagnosed with COPD, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to stop the progression of the disease and reduce your risk of death.
MYTH 2: Only your lungs are affected by COPD
FACT: While COPD primarily affects your lungs, this disease affects many other systems in your body.
COPD limits the amount of oxygen you can take in. As a result, your entire body suffers. Your heart must work harder to send the right amount of oxygen to your organs and body parts, increasing your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
The coughing and wheezing that accompany COPD make it difficult to attend social functions, and not being able to breathe well makes it difficult to keep up with family and friends. As such, many patients with COPD also struggle with mental health disorders, like depression, because of the social isolation the disease causes.
MYTH 3: I can’t exercise with COPD
FACT: While COPD does make breathing more difficult, exercise improves your symptoms and your overall health.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to exercise when breathing is a struggle, working through the difficulty brings many benefits to people with COPD, including:
- Stronger respiratory muscles
- Better circulation for oxygen delivery
- Healthier cardiovascular system
- Improved self-esteem and mental health
- Better sleep
- Improved overall strength and fitness
Be sure to review any exercise plans with Dr. Kimzey before beginning an exercise program.
MYTH 4: There is no treatment for COPD
FACT: While there isn’t currently a cure for COPD, there are effective treatment options to manage your symptoms and improve your breathing.
At Girard Internal Medicine, Dr. Kimzey specializes in helping patients with COPD improve their quality of life with customized treatment plans based on their specific needs. For example, bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids can help with chronic bronchitis while supplemental oxygen can alleviate the struggle to breathe associated with emphysema.
In severe cases, Dr. Kimzey may recommend mechanical ventilation to help you breathe or an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, which removes carbon dioxide from your blood and returns it to your body with added oxygen.
Tet help for COPD or to learn more myths and facts, contact Girard Internal Medicine in Philadelphia or request an appointment with Dr. Kimzey online at your convenience.