If you’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), you likely know the difficulties that come with being unable to properly process oxygen through your lungs. Once your physician has diagnosed you, you may have several questions about the progression of the disease, as well as the treatments they recommend. Here are a few questions you should ask your doctor before beginning a treatment program.
1. What can I expect if I stop smoking?
Smoking is the top cause of COPD, with some estimates stating it causes as much as 90 percent of all COPD cases. When you stop smoking, within a few hours, the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood is cut in half. If you’ve ever had surgery, you were probably told to stop smoking at least eight hours before. This reduces the carbon monoxide in your blood to a level that is safe for surgery.
A few weeks after you stop smoking, your lungs will begin repairing themselves. Within three months, you’ll likely feel a marked improvement in your ability to breathe. In just one year, the cilia in your lungs will begin to move mucus more smoothly again, resulting in a reduction of symptoms like chronic coughing and shortness of breath. By your tenth smoke-free year, your risk of lung cancer will be cut in half.
For women, this progress is even faster, according to research conducted by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. While former smokers will always have a risk of COPD, that risk is increased by the number of years you smoke. Once you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, there’s no cure, although lung repair can help slow the progression of the disease. Continuing to smoke will only exacerbate the disease, potentially leading to such dangerous symptoms as pneumonia and infections.
2. What side effects can I expect from my medication?
You’ve probably seen the five-minute disclaimers at the end of pharmaceutical commercials. One of the biggest concerns you could have about any treatment is that it might cause damage to other, healthy parts of your body. Check with your physician before beginning any treatment program to make sure that you know all the dangers associated with it.
3. Are there any changes I can make to help my condition?
Your overall health will likely have a very positive impact on your reaction to COPD symptoms. While diet and exercise won’t cure COPD, they can help slow the disease, as well as help you breathe better and feel less discomfort. Your doctor can also explain to you the benefits of drinking water and beginning an exercise program that helps relieve COPD symptoms.
4. Besides smoking, what other factors can aggravate my COPD?
Some patients are concerned about allergens like pets, dust, and other environmental factors. If you have extreme COPD symptoms, your physician may recommend wearing a mask to cut down on the pollutants you inhale. Explain the specifics of your lifestyle to your doctor to see if they can make any recommendations about changes to your environment that will help you breathe better.
Your doctor will likely also recommend that you stay away from people who have infections and contagious illnesses. If you have COPD, even a minor illness can weaken your immune system, putting you at greater risk for problems. In fact, staying healthy in general can help ensure longevity. A healthy diet that includes vitamins that strengthen the immune system can help you fight off viruses that come your way.
5. Do I need any shots or vaccinations?
Some COPD patients choose to get a pneumonia vaccine to lessen their risk of getting the infection. As pneumonia can deteriorate lung health and lead to a weakened system and eventual overall health decline, many people with COPD have found security in getting a pneumonia vaccine, which protects against a couple dozen strains.
It is recommended that you get an annual flu shot, which is readily available at many drug stores and doctors’ offices, if you have COPD. In fact, the influenza vaccine is recommended for most people, no matter their health conditions. Like pneumonia, the flu can weaken a COPD patient’s lungs and immune system, leading to problems that healthy patients wouldn’t face.
If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, likely you have many questions. To prepare for your next appointment, keep a notepad and write down any questions that come to mind and pose those questions to your doctor the next time you get a chance. Working with your doctor, you can get a handle on this disease and begin to fight it.