What is COPD?

Published: October 25, 2016

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is commonly known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. According to the National Institute on Health (NIH), COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and a major contributor to long term disability. People with COPD suffer with chronic cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and production of phlegm. It can be caused by smoking, environmental exposure and/or occupational exposure.

A doctor can diagnose individuals with COPD utilizing a simple breathing test. The damage cannot be reversed, but treatment can improve quality of life. Patients may receive medications, be advised to quit smoking, and/or receive supplemental oxygen. In addition, exercise and rehabilitation can help COPD symptoms.

Exercise and rehabilitation can reduce your shortness of breath, help improve your level of activity, and avoid development of physical problems. Training the arm muscles and muscles used in walking can increase aerobic capacity and decrease shortness of breath.

Balance is often worse in people that require supplemental oxygen. Physical therapy can help decrease the risk of falling. Therapists can also teach proper breathing techniques and improve posture to allow increased ease of airflow into the lungs.

Occupational therapists tech energy conservation to help people plan their day with an awareness of their body. They also teach patients to rest actively, not only reactively, how to simplify work, and make suggestions on adaptive equipment to make work easier and less tiresome.

COPD can cause decreased voice, decreased communication, swallow disorders and oral hygiene issues. Speech language therapists are able to address these issues as many of the same body structures affected by COPD affect speech and swallowing. Further, swallowing problems can cause COPD to flare up, can cause choking and even pneumonia.

Contact your doctor to see if physical, occupational and/or speech therapy can help you control your COPD symptoms.

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