COPD – Warning signs, causes, and home remedies

COPD – Warning signs, causes, and home remedies

COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affects your lungs, obstructing airflow, causing coughing and labored breathing. COPD increases the risk of lung cancer and cardiac problems. Chronic bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes or airways) and emphysema (damaged air passages due to irritating gases) are the two common conditions you might experience if you suffer from COPD. COPD tends to worsen with time, but proper treatment and symptom management can improve your quality of life.

Warning signs
Generally, COPD symptoms become apparent when your lungs are majorly damaged. Still, watch out for the following:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath, especially in case of physical exertion
  • Respiratory infections that occur frequently
  • Lethargy or exhaustion
  • A cough that doesn’t go away and produces clear, yellow, or white sputum
  • Swelling in legs, feet, or ankles
  • Unexplained weight loss (in advanced stage)
  • Rapid heartbeat, blue fingernail beds or lips, mental fog (seek medical help immediately)

Causes
Smoking tobacco is the main reason COPD occurs. Burning fuel for cooking or heating and getting exposed to the fumes regularly can also cause COPD. However, not all those who smoke develop COPD. It also depends on whether you are genetically at risk. Air pollution, secondhand smoke, and professional exposure to smoke or dust can lead to this disease too. If you have asthma, you are at a higher risk of getting COPD than others.

Treatment
If your COPD is in the initial stages or mild, stopping smoking can help you recover. Consult a doctor for the best way to quit and handle relapses. Also, avoid secondhand smoke. If the disease has progressed, medications, therapies, and even surgeries are available to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve your daily life.

  • Treatment options that can help
    Bronchodilators relax airway muscles and ease breathing. Inhaled steroids reduce inflammation in your airways. Oral steroids, used in case of severe COPD, can prevent progression but have multiple side effects. Antibiotics treat pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and influenza, as they worsen COPD symptoms.
  • Helpful lung therapies
    In oxygen therapy, you can carry around light oxygen units all day long, during certain activities, or while sleeping. It can improve life expectancy too. Pulmonary rehab programs use counseling, education, exercise training, and nutrition tips to enhance the quality of life and reduce exacerbations.
  • Surgery is recommended when other treatments aren’t helping
    In lung volume reduction surgery, damaged lung tissue is removed to grow healthier tissues, which helps your diaphragm works better. Bullectomy is another option. COPD can damage the air sac walls in your lungs and create big air spaces. These can make breathing difficult. With bullectomy, these air spaces can be removed to ease airflow. While lung transplant is another treatment option, it is not for everyone. The operation is risky, and the surgeon will prescribe immune-suppressing medicines for your lifetime.

Home remedies
Apart from quitting smoking, try the following home remedies:

  • Improve indoor air quality
    Tobacco smoke, dust, cleaning products, paint, and pet dander can worsen COPD. Open windows every day to ventilate your home and buy an air filtration system to prevent mildew. De-clutter and vacuum thoroughly. Every week, wash bed linens to avoid dust mites.
  • Keep stress at bay
    It can trigger flare-ups. Meditate for half an hour every day or practice breathing exercises to relax. Pranayama can significantly improve your lung capacity and address shortness of breath. Talk to your doctor about breathing techniques that control flare-ups or help conserve energy.
  • Strengthen your muscles
    Make your muscles stronger by strength training (with your body weight, weights, or resistance bands) and interval training (alternating between high- and low-intensity exercises). Water-based exercises are a great option if you have any disability or cannot handle too much stress due to a bone condition.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced meal
    Eat well to maintain the right BMI, as an improper BMI can worsen COPD symptoms. Fresh fruits and veggies; lean proteins like chicken, eggs, turkey; and whole grains are necessary. If you are below the required BMI, consult your doctor about supplements. Since vitamin D deficiency is associated with airway inflammation, your doctor might suggest a supplement for that as well.
  • Keep your airways clear of mucus
    Do this by drinking enough water every day. Using a humidifier can also help.

Living with COPD can be challenging, but you can live an active and fulfilling life if you make some lifestyle changes, go for check-ups regularly, avoid triggers, and get treatment on time. You can also join a support group to share your worries and problems and find the motivation to fight the disease.