November is COPD Awareness Month

Published: November 06, 2014

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 United States 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 muscles used in walking and arm muscles can increase aerobic capacity and decrease shortness of breath. Balance is often worse in people that require supplemental oxygen and physical therapists can decrease people’s fall risk. Therapists can teach patients proper breathing techniques and improve their posture to allow increased ease of airflow into the lungs. Occupational therapists teach 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 that will 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 a COPD flare-up, choking or pneumonia.

If you have COPD and need rehabilitation intervention, the therapy staff at Lutheran SeniorLife Passavant Community can help. They are available on an outpatient basis by calling (724) 452-3492 or via home health services at (877) 862-6659.

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