Anybody who has been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is sure to have many questions.
How will the disease affect their life? How can they continue to do what is important to them while living with a progressive illness? Can treatment reverse or halt the symptoms?
There is a lot to hope for, in spite of the difficulties that a person with COPD might encounter. The COPD Foundation offers support and encouragement. Various treatments and types of rehabilitation have been developed that enable people to live productive lives for many years with COPD.
The Nature of the Beast
COPD is the term used for a collection of breathing-related illnesses. The group includes: Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis and Refractory Asthma. The common factor between these illnesses is the damage that is done to the lungs and the body’s breathing apparatus by the illness, making it increasingly difficult to breath effectively. COPD usually affects people over the age of 40. Not everyone notices the symptoms in the early stages of the illness. Usually it is felt more by older adults.
Common symptoms include:
- Frequent coughing
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath (especially during exertion)
Rehabilitation – Who is it for?
Tests for diagnosing COPD include the spirometry test, which measures how well the lungs are working as the person breathes out, chest x-rays, CT scan, and / or blood analysis. The tests assess how effectively the person is breathing.
The person can join a COPD rehab program upon the doctor’s referral for rehabilitation, with tests showing that the person had COPD within the last year.
How does rehab help someone with COPD?
Although COPD cannot be reversed completely, treatment and making lifestyle changes can help reduce its impact. In rehabilitation, a person works together with a team of specialists from various backgrounds, including dietitians and social workers. The staff in the rehabilitation center are specially trained to help sufferers exercise, even those who are very short of breath. The rehabilitation exercises are expected to bring an improvement in the breathing, even for someone with limited abilities. The exercises help the heart and lungs to work better.
Proper management of the disease prevents flareups; this includes taking medications as prescribed and learning which triggers to avoid.
How Long Does Rehabilitation Last?
Every case will be different, but rehabilitation can range from 4 to 12 weeks in length. A person would have sessions 2 to 3 times a week.
Again, on a case by case basis, some people will need or want sleep-in rehabilitation, while others will do it on an out-patient basis. The program might include breathing, blowing and strength-training exercises.
Hopefully, the benefits of the rehabilitation will continue for a long time, even after the rehabilitation has ended.
Any Other Recommendations?
Yes, the doctor and perhaps the team of specialists will suggest lifestyle and health improvements such as:
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding irritants such as smoke and dust
- A structured exercise program
- Eating healthily
What to Focus on at this point
The focus of the treatment and rehabilitation for a person with COPD is doing exercise. This will strengthen the lungs and the heart, and help the breathing to improve.
Making lifestyle changes will likely stop progression of the disease and improve the symptoms.