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Tips for Living with COPD
By Marianne Drevna, BS, LRCP

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a progressive lung disease that makes breathing difficult. There is no cure and, because it is a progressive disease, COPD gets worse over time. There are millions of diagnosed cases of COPD in the United States, but many more cases remain undiagnosed.

While living with COPD can be challenging, it does not have to drastically alter your life. There are steps to help manage symptoms on a daily basis that may even help slow the disease's progress.

Avoid Irritants
Avoid lung irritants that contribute to COPD, such as smoking. Enroll in a quit assistance program and/or stay away from others who are smoking, as secondhand smoke can exacerbate COPD symptoms. Dust, chemical fumes and air pollution can also cause COPD symptoms to flare up. Keep harsh chemicals out of your home and limit time outdoors.

See Your Doctor Regularly
Regular visits to the doctor are critical for staying on top of COPD. Take the medications prescribed as directed by the doctor, refill them before they run out and keep the doctor informed of any changes to other medicines taken to avoid dangerous drug interactions. Also talk with the doctor about yearly vaccines and voice any concerns about increased risk for other diseases like lung cancer or heart disease as a result of COPD.

Prepare for Emergencies
The first step in preparing for emergencies is knowing when and where to seek help for symptoms. Keep numbers for your doctor and any emergency contacts handy. Also have emergency medication nearby in the event of a flare up. Call the doctor immediately if symptoms worsen over time.

Seek Support
Living with COPD may cause fear, anxiety and depression on top of physical symptoms. It's important to be surrounded by family, friends and doctors. A counselor or support group can help a COPD patient work through emotional feelings or prescribe anti-depressant medications.

The thought of living with COPD can be frightening at first diagnosis, but take the time to understand the disease, keep the doctor informed, prepare for emergencies and seek support from others. COPD does not have to take over your life.

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For more information, contact Breathe Pennsylvania at 1-800-220-1990 or info@breathepa.org or visit www.breathepa.org.

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