The official blog of the Lung Institute.
So, you caught it early. Now what?
Let’s assume for a minute that, after noticing a few changes in your respiratory health—a bit more fatigue when exerting yourself, trouble breathing, frequent coughing—you’ve decided that what you’re feeling isn’t the normal you; that you need to have it checked out by your physician.
Regretfully, your doctor informs you that you’ve developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a result of years of long-term smoking, exposure to smoke, or a combination of other harmful airborne or genetic conditions.
Although this news can initially be devastating, due to your conscientiousness on monitoring your health and symptoms, you were lucky enough to catch the development of the disease at stage 1 or 2.
So, now what?
Considering the fact that most people are diagnosed with COPD between stages 2 and 4, to be diagnosed at a stage like 1 or 2 can make a significant difference in your overall quality of life and life expectancy, but only if you choose to act for the betterment of your health.
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to break down the Early Symptoms of COPD and also to give you a clear answer in knowing your next steps for better respiratory health.
COPD – An Overview
We’ll start here with the basics: COPD is an obstructive lung disease primarily encompassing the conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The disease itself is progressive, meaning that it will gradually get worse on its own. It will progress even more quickly if continually exposed to harmful environmental conditions, such as tobacco smoke. As we mentioned earlier, the symptoms of COPD are uniformly:
- Increased fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Excessive sputum (spit) production
- A build-up of mucus within the lungs
- Frequent fits of coughing (exacerbations)
In diagnosing this disease, typically the patient will exhibit these symptoms over a given amount of time on their own before deciding to visit their general physician or pulmonologist. It’s here, in this length of time before recognizing that the symptoms will not go away, that is a particular area of danger. This is why recognizing the early symptoms of COPD is so important.
COPD or Am I Just Getting Older?
Often, the symptoms of a chronic lung disease, such as COPD, emphysema, or pulmonary fibrosis (PF), are confused with the natural process of aging. If it takes a little longer to get up the stairs, it’s typically associated with “just getting a little older.” If you’re coughing more frequently than you used to, and the cough just won’t seem to go away, it’s typical to assume it’s just a scratchy throat or common cold.
In many cases, when these symptoms are this persistent, the culprit may be deeper than the natural pangs of aging. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to see your primary physician as soon as you notice something is amiss in your general health.
Unfortunately for many, the decision to weather these symptoms out, while continuing to smoke or be around harmful respiratory conditions (like working in polluted areas) can only increase the damage, quickly advancing the stage of your disease before you ever see a doctor.
Now That I Know, What Can I Do?
If you are diagnosed early at stage 1 or 2, your goals should be proactive from this point forward. In this sense, proactive means that you’re doing everything possible to adhere to the guidelines and recommendations of your primary physician. You can better manage early symptoms of COPD if you are proactive.
To start, you should be taking the inhalers and medications that your doctors prescribe to you, exactly as they are prescribed. The cost of refills or confusion over instructions can lead to non-adherence, but it’s vital to take any medications when and how you’re supposed to in order to properly manage symptoms.
Typically, this will mean a few lifestyle changes. First…
- Quit Smoking – We cannot stress this enough, and it’s incredibly important to emphasize. Without even considering the stats on smoking that illustrate its harm on the body and other aesthetic effects, the fact is that smoking will accelerate the progression of the disease. This can mean a shorter lifespan and less time with your friends, family and grandchildren.
- Change the Way You Eat – Admittedly this is much easier to say than it is to do, but when it comes to giving your body the proper nutrition that it needs, you may be surprised by the effects of eating more fruits, vegetables and cutting out meats will have on your energy levels, respiratory function and overall quality of life. It just takes a little effort to pick out a few favorites at the grocery store, and commit them to your weekly diet.
- Get Out and Exercise – This can also be a challenge for those who are afraid of aggravating their symptoms. The key here is to start small. Exercise in your house for 2-5 minutes. Take a walk outside. Anything to get your heart racing will help, and you can start out small. In fact, you should. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so give yourself some time and some space to grow and gain more confidence in your workout routine. The key is to get that blood pumping, helping it deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the areas of the body that need it most.
What Else Can I Do?
Although the most important step in taking control of your health is quitting smoking, a close second is to address your general health through simple diet and exercise.
With these behavioral changes, it’s possible to greatly affect the pronouncement of symptoms for people with emphysema, COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life in the way that you may expect, it may be time to consider stem cell therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, stem cell therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve your quality of life.
For more information on stem cell therapy and what it could mean for your life moving forward, contact us today or call us at (800) 729-3065. Our patient coordinators will walk you through the available treatment options, talk through your current health and medical history and determine a qualifying treatment plan that works best for you.
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