Hello my name is Daimon Wheddon, I’m a paramedic with EEAST practicing for twenty years now.
As it’s World COPD day, I’m writing this blog to help raise awareness of this disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major public health problem in many countries, with the World Health Organization estimating that over 210 million people have moderate to severe COPD. More than 3 million people living with the disease are in the UK, of which only about 900,000 have been diagnosed.
What is COPD?
This is the name used to describe a number of conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema affects the air sacs in your lungs (alveoli), and chronic bronchitis affects your airways (bronchi).
COPD will cause airways become inflamed and the air sacs in your lungs are damaged this causes your airways to become narrower, which makes it harder to breathe in and out. Over many years, the inflammation leads to permanent changes in the lung. The walls of the airways thicken and more mucus is produced. Damage to the delicate walls of the air sacs in the lungs causes emphysema and the lungs lose their normal elasticity. The smaller airways also become scarred and narrowed. These changes cause the symptoms of breathlessness, cough and phlegm associated with COPD.
These breathing difficulties caused by COPD can affect sufferers in many aspects of their day-to-day life.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for COPD, but there are lots of treatments available to help patients manage their condition in order to improve symptoms and live an active life.
Who’s at risk?
The main cause of COPD is smoking; the condition usually affects people over the age of 35 and who are, or have been, heavy smokers.
People who don’t smoke but have long-term severe asthma can get COPD. It can also be caused by long-term exposure to air pollution, fumes and dust from the environment or your place of work.
What are the symptoms?
Well these can be varied but normally comprise of wheezing particularly when breathing out, breathlessness when resting or being active, cough, frequent chest infections, producing more mucus or phlegm than usual and experiencing a tight chest. These symptoms can be made worse at times of illness such as colds and chest infections.
COPD and the ambulance service
We are called to many COPD patients particularly when their symptoms exacerbate and become worse. Lots of people diagnosed with COPD are now given an information card that guides them as to what to do when things become worse, which also informs our crews as to that patient’s target oxygen saturations. This is particularly important when dealing with these patients as too much oxygen or prolonged therapy can be harmful.
What treatments are available? If you are a smoker the single most important thing you can do is give up! This will stop the chance of the condition becoming worse and the on-going damage to a person’s airway caused by cigarette smoke.
Diet and eating healthy can also help with the condition along with being as active as you can and to exercise safely, medication are used to help improve the symptoms.
For more information on COPD please follow the links: