COPD In Seniors Can Easily Be Avoided 

COPD in seniors can be extremely dangerous if not treated.

However, if you are diagnosed with it, it is not the end of the world. It cannot be cured, but it can be controlled.

I know from first hand experience, as I have it.

It can be a real challenge at times, and I have tried several different types of treatments and found one much, much better than the others.

The Symptoms of COPD In Seniors

COPD in seniors, also known as chronic obstructive respiratory disease, and the complication it causes, is the 3rd leading killer of our age group of 65 years and older.

The major cause of it is from a long term exposure to irritating gases, and by far and away the leading contributor to these gases is smoking.

Because of this, once you have been diagnosed, the first thing you should do is quit. However, as all smokers out there know, that can be a lot easier said than done.

There are several very telling signs of COPD in seniors and they will include some of the following.

  • A daily cough with mucus or sputum that has turned chronic
  • A tightening in the chest accompanied by wheezing
  • A real need to clear your throat when you first wake up
  • A lack of energy
  • Swelling in the feet or ankles

You may also experience what is referred to as exacerbation's, where whatever symptoms you are experiencing, become worse than normal for several days.

Then, just as quickly, it goes back to a milder form. But those several days can be very tough.

This Is What Is Happening

Here is basically what is happening with COPD in seniors.

The air in our lungs, when everything is normal, will travel down our windpipe where it enters our lungs through two very large tubes known as the bronchi.

The best way to describe them is like the branches of a large tree that also has a lot of smaller branches. At the end of the smaller branches, instead of leaves, we have small clusters of air sacks.

Our air sacks, like leaves when you look at them closely, have small veins. However, in our case these sacks have numerous small blood vessels, called capillaries.

When we breathe, the oxygen that is inhaled is transmitted by these vessels into our bloodstream.

While this process is happening, we are at the same time releasing carbon dioxide when we exhale.

This carbon dioxide has been turned into a waste product by our metabolism, and the only way we can get rid of it, is by exhaling.

COPD in seniors slows down this process for two reasons; these tubes as well as the air sacs have lost some of their elasticity.

In order for this process to function at full strength at all times, they must be very flexible. After years of exposure to dangerous gases, smoking in most cases, they over-expand.

This over expansion stops all of the air that we inhale from escaping, and as a result, some air is basically trapped in our lungs.

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The Most Common Causes

There are two major causes of over expansion.

  • Emphysema
  • Chronic Bronchitis

There other potential causes of COPD in seniors, but these by far and away are the most common.

With chronic bronchitis our bronchial tubes have become inflamed, and as a result, have narrowed. Because of this, our lungs are now producing more mucus.

Once we start producing more mucus, the tubes narrow even further. At this point, the only thing we can do is cough that soon becomes a chronic cough, in an attempt to clear our airways.

Emphysema is considered more serious, as our elastic fibers and their very fragile walls, have been destroyed.

In severe cases, when you try to exhale, the smaller airways are actually collapsing, trapping in more air.

Management of COPD in Seniors

COPD in seniors, as mentioned earlier, is not a death sentence, as it can be successfully treated and controlled.

Here are the most common and successful treatments.

  • Smoking cessations
  • Bronchodilators
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Combination inhalers

The first and most important treatment for COPD in seniors is to quit smoking-period. This is critical if you want to control it.

For every day that you continue, you will be making it worse. As difficult as it is to quit, this is the most important treatment you can do.

The next form of treatment is Bronchodilators, and the vast majority of these come as inhalers.

They help to relax the muscles located around our airways, and are effective at slowing the shortness of breath as well as the coughing.

They also come in two types; short and long acting.

Short acting is usually used before some type of activity, and long term is used every day.

One of the best known long term brands is Spiriva. Spiriva is used two times a day and I used it for about 2 years.

However, like any type of inhaler or medicine, it does have side effects.

One of these side effects is a sore or very dry throat. It was because of this that I switched.

Inhaled steroids are next of the list as treatments and they do two things very effectively.

They also reduce the inflammation in the airway and they also control the exacerbations.

If you have had this condition for any period of time, this is very important to control. The most common brand name of this form is Flonase, which did nothing at all to help me.

I have used it for allergies and it works great for those, but it did not help me with this condition.

The final effective treatments are with Combination inhalers that use both, and the most common brand names here are Advair and Symbicort.

All I can go is my experience, and I tried both in sample forms for 2 weeks each and again got a very bad dry and sore throat. 

However, I tried another combination inhaler, Anoro, which was and still is very effective for me. It is classified as an inhalation powder that is an anticholinergic as well as a bronchodilator.

Unlike Spiriva, you only use Anoro once a day in the morning and since using it, the dry and sore throat has disappeared.

References

http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Understanding-COPD/What-is-COPD.aspx

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