COPD & Oxygen Supplies

Short of breath? You may have COPD

McLaren Home Medical Can Help

COPD photo

Our medical supplies division has respiratory therapists who are specially trained to care for people with COPD. They can instruct you on medications and equipment used to treat COPD. People may need a nebulizer, oxygen, or a mucus-clearing device to treat their COPD symptoms. Our therapist will help find the equipment that best suit your medical needs and your lifestyle.

What is COPD?

COPD is a term used to describe a family of lung diseases. It stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

These diseases include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma. These diseases begin in the bronchial tubes of the lung. They cause the bronchial tubes to narrow and "obstruct" the flow of air out of the lungs. This makes it harder to breathe. Often, there is also inflammation and/ or increased mucus production of the bronchial tubes. The inflammation and mucus are on the inside walls of the bronchial tube and cause it become even smaller. Think of it as trying to breathe through a straw. It takes a lot more work to get the air to move.

Most people who are told they have COPD have chronic bronchitis or emphysema. These diseases are similar and so is the treatment. Many people have components of both diseases. The bronchial tubes have suffered permanent damage and are often narrowed and weakened. This can cause excess air to be trapped in the lungs. There can also be destructive of the alveoli or "air sacs" in the lung. The alveolar walls are very thin and can rupture. This reduces the lungs ability to transport oxygen into the body.

Asthma is often a hereditary disease that is closely linked to allergies. Airway obstruction from asthma can often be controlled with medications. When the asthma is controlled, the lung function can be normal. Long standing uncontrolled asthma can cause permanent damage to the bronchial tubes.

COPD illustration

What Causes COPD?

There can be many causes of COPD.

  • Smoking, including second-hand smoke
  • Working where there is smoke, fumes, and poor air quality
  • Sometimes you inherit the genes for lung disease

Signs and Symptoms of COPD

Shortness of breath or having to slow down because you are breathing hard is a common symptom of COPD. Most people first notice shortness of breath on with activity, walking quickly or going up stairs. This can progress until almost any activity causes shortness of breath. Some people also have a chronic cough, chest tightness, or wheezing. You may also be more prone to respiratory viruses like colds and flu.

Diagnosing COPD

Your doctor will examine you, listen to your lungs, and take down your history.

A breathing test can be performed to check how well your lungs are working. The test will tell the volume (amount) of air you can move and how quickly you can empty your lungs (flow-rate). This helps to determine if you have narrowing of the bronchial tubes. A more complete test will also measure how well your lungs absorb oxygen and the total volume of air in your lungs.

Chest X-rays may also be helpful.

The Cycle of COPD

Left untreated, the inflammation from COPD can worsen and cause more damage to lung tissue. This results in more shortness of breath and decreases your ability to stay active. You may also suffer from more lung infections. Oxygen is the fuel our bodies use for everything it needs to do. When the lungs are no longer able to take in the proper amount of oxygen, all of your internal organs suffer, particularly your heart. This is why when you cannot breath, your body makes you stop and rest and your heart begins to pound faster and harder.

COPD Treatments

There are many medications and treatments available for COPD.

  • bronchodilators can help to open the bronchial tubes and help clear congestion
  • steroids can help to reduce inflammation
  • nasal oxygen may be needed

There is even a COPD exercise and rehabilitation course available through your local McLaren affiliated hospital system to help you learn about your disease and improve your activity level.