Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 10 to 20 percent of the adult population is afflicted with one or more of the conditions that fall under the COPD umbrella, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is preventable and treatable, yet cannot be fully cured. Cigarette smoking is the greatest cause of COPD at over 90 percent of all cases; long-term exposure to environmental & occupational risk factors, severe viral infections as a child, and genetic disorders cause the majority of other cases.
COPD often does not present symptoms until later stages, making quick diagnosis and treatment crucial. The primary symptoms of COPD are coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. These symptoms are triggered by breathing particles or gases that irritate the airways and cause shortness of breath. Therefore, a diagnosis of COPD should be considered in anyone who frequently finds it difficult to breathe, has a persistent cough that produces phlegm and/or has been regularly exposed to risk factors such as cigarette smoking.
Diagnosing COPD can be done by spirometry, a simple breathing test that measures the level of airflow limitation. Spirometry helps doctors confidently establish a diagnosis, categorizing it as either mild, moderate, severe, or very severe. Once established and staged, the most effective therapy and medicine can then be prescribed. Since respiratory therapists receive the most in-depth training on spirometry interpretation, respiratory medications, and the deliverance of relatable therapies, they are an essential component of any successful COPD management program.
Kingston HealthCare specializes in clinical care and chronic disease management in assisted living and skilled nursing environments. Kingston has respiratory therapists on staff to help patients and residents treat and manage the complexities of the COPD disease process. “Patients with limited lung capacity and episodes of exasperation have a very difficult time recovering from surgeries or illnesses that require skilled rehabilitation,” says Travis Grasely, RCP, RRT, MA, Regional Director of Respiratory Therapy. “Surprisingly, very few patients understand the full benefits of respiratory therapy and essential techniques for maintaining lung function. When a patient has COPD, we work with their physicians to include respiratory therapy and education as part of their care path. As a result, we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in hospital readmissions and improved activity in daily living. Our patients recover faster when they are equipped to prevent and control breathing flare-ups.”
Unfortunately, however, COPD sufferers will always have some degree of airflow limitation regardless of whether or not they receive the appropriate breathing treatments and therapies. A proper lung assessment, correctly performing doctor-prescribed respiratory therapy, and providing education makes it more likely that those with a diagnosis of COPD will have better quality of life, for a longer period of time.
Click here for more information about Kingston’s Respiratory Specialization.