Be Mindful of Your Lung Health

Breath is life, and anyone who has ever had trouble breathing knows how frightening the experience can be. Two of the most common breathing ailments are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While the two conditions have similarities, they also have significant differences. Let’s look at how they’re defined and treated.

COPD

COPD is a condition in which the airways of your lungs become inflamed, making it more difficult to breathe. According to the American Lung Association (ALA),  COPD affects millions of Americans and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. While there several causes for COPD, the most common is smoking and people with COPD are at greater risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. In fact, according to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

It’s important to know that many people don’t recognize COPD until it has reached an advanced stage.

Symptoms of COPD can include:

  • Chronic cough
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath during daily activities

If you have any of these symptoms, you should reach out to your doctor immediately. The earlier COPD is diagnosed, the better your chances of treating it. Depending on your symptoms and health history, there are different approaches to treating the disease. These include:

  • Medications
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation

Your provider will explain which treatment is best for you and why.

Asthma

More than 26 million Americans are living with asthma, according to ALA.   While there is no cure for asthma-- the good news is it can be treated, allowing people to live normal, healthy lives. Much like COPD, asthma is an inflammation of the airways in your lungs, making it hard to breathe.

Symptoms are also similar, including

  • Wheezing,
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath.

One difference between the two diseases is that asthma is usually diagnosed early in life, while COPD shows up at later, particularly in smokers. In addition, asthma often has a genetic factor. So, if one of your parents has asthma, you’ll have a greater risk of developing the condition.

Because asthma has no cure, the goal is to control the disease. Here are some ways that might be done:

  • Your provider may create an asthma action plan which will detail the medicines you take and when you take them.
  • Medications are usually divided into those that help with long-term control and medications that provide relief during an asthma attack.
  • Your doctor will also teach you how to use a device called a “peak flow meter” which shows how well air moves through your lungs.

Your lung health is important. If you're experiencing shortness of breath or other related symptoms, talk with your doctor. 

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/ChronicRespiratoryDisease.html 

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Last Updated: 4/1/2019

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