Now’s the time to bring awareness to respiratory health during October’s Respiratory Care Week.
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a lung ailment is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COPD refers to more than one disease or a group of diseases that can cause breathing-related problems. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and sometimes asthma.
Although 15 million Americans reported a diagnosis of COPD, the CDC found that “more than 50% of adults with low pulmonary function were not aware that they had COPD; therefore the actual number may be higher.” Women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with COPD, and smoking is the primary risk factor.
In addition to those common respiratory illnesses are other conditions such as cystic fibrosis and pulmonary fibrosis that are serious lung diseases. Sleep disorders are often breathing problems.
“Awareness of these might help with a diagnosis or getting access to treatment in a timely manner,” said Sherry Milligan, associate executive director of communications at the American Association for Respiratory Care.
Caring When They Struggle to Breathe
A survey by the American Lung Association found that more than half (51%) of all COPD patients reported that this disease limits their abilities at work; 70% said it limited their normal physical exertion; 56% said it limited their ability to do household chores; 53% said it affected their social activities; 50% said it impacts their sleep and 46% said it affected their participation in family activities. All these statistics point to a need for assistance with activities of daily living for those living with respiratory illness.
Caregivers to someone who may be living with COPD or another lung ailment can benefit from knowing more about symptoms and treatment for their loved one.
For example, the parent of an asthmatic child will need to be aware of pets, dust, or food triggers in the home that might cause a flare up of the condition. Anyone who lives with or cares for someone with breathing difficulties should know that smoking is a real irritant for those with lung problems, Ms. Milligan explained.
Once a source of breathing problems is diagnosed or identified, then Ms. Milligan said there are medications and programs available to help improve breathing.
Waiting to Exhale
Learning about lung diseases can be overwhelming, and while they are serious there is help for those in need.
“Many very good medications are out there to help you control your asthma or COPD,” Ms. Milligan said. “Pulmonary rehabilitation programs help you maximize our lung function through exercise and education.”
The American Lung Association offers free online support for individuals living with lung disease and their caregivers.