Home / ILS Blog / What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a blanket term for a variety of lung conditions that vary in severity between individuals. The most common forms of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but as many of the conditions covered by the term are often present in affected individuals, COPD is a convenient term to explain all of the conditions which obstruct breathing on a chronic level. The term “chronic” means that the disease is a progressive, long-term condition and will not simply go away. However, there are a range of things that COPD patients can do to manage symptoms and improve their quality of life, but we will come to these later.

Who Can Get COPD and How?

COPD most commonly occurs in middle-aged or older individuals and is very rarely diagnosed in patients under the age of 35. It is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to lung irritants, such as heavy smoking of cigarettes or inhalation of second hand smoke. Other irritants such as air pollution and high exposure to dusts and chemicals can increase the risk of developing COPD, but for the most part these agents are thought only to increase the risk of COPD caused by cigarette or pipe smoking.

COPD Symptoms

Symptoms of COPD vary in severity between individuals. The most common symptoms include chronic coughing, coughing large amounts of mucus (sputum production) especially in the mornings, wheezing, tightness of the chest, shortness of breath (dyspnoea), frequent chest infections and reduced tolerance for exercise. In some severe cases, COPD can also result in fatigue, depression and weight loss due to the increase in energy required to perform daily tasks. It is important for individuals affected by COPD to maintain a positive and proactive approach to managing their condition in order to achieve better health.

The Stats

COPD can and does affect people from all walks of life. 14.5% – or one in seven – of Australians 40 years or over has airflow limitation of the lungs. 7.5% of Australians aged 40 or over have COPD that has progressed sufficiently to where symptoms may already be present and affecting daily life. It is the second leading cause of avoidable hospitalisation and accounts for significant costs to the healthcare system. These astonishing numbers only highlight the inherent danger of tobacco smoking and should serve as a warning to future generations about the health implications of taking up smoking. Nevertheless, the large number of COPD patients in Australia also means that a vast amount of research and funding has been applied to pulmonary care. Treatments for lung disease are advanced, and COPD is no longer the death sentence it was perceived to be in the past. Now, living with COPD is not only achievable, but common in Australia’s ageing population of ex-smokers.

Staying Mentally Active

COPD in Daily Life

If you have recently been diagnosed with COPD, there are several factors you need to be aware of. Firstly, it pays to be aware of the financial impact COPD treatment can have on you and your family and, in severe cases, the costs of medical oxygen equipment which you might require at home. The prices for treatment will vary significantly depending on the kinds of treatment required and the individual’s health insurance or social benefit schemes. Prices for oxygen equipment can be viewed on our website, for expert advice we recommend talking to Oxygen Solutions.

Besides the costs of medical treatment and equipment, COPD can disrupt normal daily life in a range of ways. For most patients, the disturbance will be minimal. In severe cases, however, the busy schedule of appointments with healthcare professionals, as well as a decline in exercise tolerance, can make it difficult to keep up social appointments. If you have been diagnosed with COPD, remember that keeping up with friends and family is an important part of balanced health, as harbouring caring relationships is not only good for the patient’s mental and emotional well-being, but nurtures positive physical health as well. As stress levels fall with positive interactions, the body and mind can focus energy on healing, rather than on worrying about healing, or other things.

 

COPD is a pervasive disease that can affect many parts of your life, but it is important to maintain a positive attitude in order to manage your symptoms effectively and to achieve your health goals with healthcare professionals. The best way you can ensure success when managing COPD is to constantly make choices which facilitate good health and avoid choices which might hinder your improvement. The following chapters will illustrate some of the changes and choices which will help COPD patients to rehabilitate their lungs and lead a normal, healthy and full life. If you have any question about COPD please leave a comment below, we’ll do our best to answer any question.

Respiratory
call icon

Customer support

Email us with any questions or enquiries. We would be happy to answer your questions. We’ll do everything we can to respond quickly.

people icon

Occupational therapists

Made up of more than 40 occupational therapists, our clinical team are specialists in assistive technology and equipment prescription.

location icon

Locate a store

Independent Living Specialists is Australia’s largest medical and homecare equipment supplier with over 30 showrooms across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.