November 15, 2023 is the 22nd “World COPD Day”. This year’s theme is “Lungs are life, no time to delay”, emphasizing the importance of early lung health, early diagnosis and early intervention of COPD.
COPD is known as the “silent killer” of the lungs. Because COPD progresses relatively slowly and has an insidious onset, many patients do not understand and pay much attention to it compared with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Not knowing that they are sick in the early stages of the disease can lead to severe lung function damage and even complications when seeing a doctor. How to correctly understand COPD and avoid misunderstandings.
1. What misunderstandings should be avoided for patients with COPD?
Myth 1: Is it natural for people who smoke for a long time to cough and expectorate?
Smoking is an important pathogenic factor. More than 90% of COPD patients smoke or have smoked. Smokers often ignore the early symptoms of COPD, such as cough and sputum production.
Misunderstanding 2: Usually there are no symptoms, and if you don’t feel suffocated, you don’t receive treatment.
There is a “quiet zone” in the progression of COPD. Patients with mild to moderate COPD have no obvious symptoms. If they are not actively treated in the early stage, the disease will progress rapidly. Therefore, the earlier treatment is given, the better the protection of lung function.
Misunderstanding 3: Medication is only needed when the condition is serious.
Once you suffer from COPD, it will be difficult for damaged lung function to return to normal levels. Long-term regular drug treatment during the stable period can prevent acute exacerbations, reduce the frequency of attacks, delay the decline of lung function, and thus delay the progression of the disease.
Misunderstanding 4: If you feel good, you can stop taking the medicine at will.
COPD is a chronic disease in which airway disease persists for a long time, leading to accelerated decline in lung function. Only by taking adequate and regular medication during the remission period can we slow down the decline of lung function and reduce the number of acute attacks.
Misunderstanding 5: Do not accept inhaled drug treatment because you are worried about long-term dependence on hormones.
Inhalation therapy drugs can reach the lungs directly and have few systemic side effects. Inhaled corticosteroids are safe and effective, unlike intravenous or oral hormone treatments.
Misunderstanding 6: If you have COPD, you will breath when you move. You should rest and not exercise.
Pulmonary rehabilitation exercises for patients with COPD can not only relieve the symptoms of asthma and chest tightness in patients with COPD, but can also prevent the occurrence of some other diseases, which is beneficial to the treatment. However, when exercising, you need to do it within your ability and do it step by step.
2. Pay attention to high-risk groups and achieve early identification of COPD;
1.Age>40 years old;
2. Smoking or long-term exposure to “second-hand smoke” pollution;
3. Certain specific diseases, such as bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, etc., and immediate relatives with COPD patients;
4. Have been engaged in mining, quarrying, casting, painting, chemical industry, decoration and other occupations for a long time;
5. Lung dysplasia during fetal period and repeated lower respiratory tract infections in infants and young children;
6. Living in cold and humid areas and using coal and firewood for heating will result in poor nutritional status and lower body mass index.
The above people should go to see a doctor if they have difficulty breathing or cough that lasts for more than one month. Pulmonary function tests, as the “gold standard” for diagnosing COPD, should be checked as regularly as blood pressure measurements. It is best for people aged 35 and above to have pulmonary function tests every year to detect abnormalities early and get early diagnosis and treatment.
3. How to protect our lungs, reduce the risk of COPD, and delay the progression of COPD can start from the following aspects:
1. Quit smoking. Quitting smoking is the most effective way to reduce the incidence of COPD, and it’s never too late to start.
2. Reduce exposure to air pollutants, improve the working and living environment, use air purifiers, and people engaged in related jobs need to take occupational protection.
3. Patients with COPD should use medications regularly as directed by their doctor. For inhaled drugs, patients must master the correct inhalation method and do not stop taking the drug on their own.
4. Eat a reasonable diet and exercise regularly to improve your own immunity. Appropriate aerobic exercise for patients with COPD can enhance cardiopulmonary function and delay the progression of the disease.
5. Prevent infection and get vaccinated. In autumn and winter, everyone can take flu vaccines to prevent colds and reduce the risk of worsening acute respiratory infections.
Everyone has only one lung. Increase awareness of COPD, strengthen early identification of COPD, adhere to long-term standardized medication, and manage daily life to ensure early lung health. Only by breathing smoothly can you live a happy life!
Author: Dou Zhifang, deputy director and chief physician of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Aviation General Hospital