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Care Transitions:  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - Pt. 2

May 22, 2012

In addition to smoking, there are a number of risk factors associated with COPD:

  • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
  • Exposure to asbestos, particularly in a construction setting
  • Exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke
  • Frequent use of cooking fire without proper ventilation, such as in restaurant kitchen work
  • Pollution

The following are symptoms of the disease.  Upon hospital discharge, family or professional caregivers should monitor these symptoms:

  • Cough, with or without mucus
  • Shortness of breath that worsens after mild activity
  • Repeated respiratory infections
  • Difficulty catching one's breath
  • Constant wheezing
  • Fatigue

Family or professional caregivers should be particularly diligent after a hospital discharge for deterioration of health, or changes in these symptoms.  If the symptoms worsen, a Physician should be consulted immediately to help prevent a re-hospitalization.  To be safe, a doctor's visit should be scheduled quickly upon return to the home environment.  

While there is no cure for this disease, there are measures that can be taken to ameliorate the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.  The most obvious measure is the complete cessation of smoking.  Another somewhat obvious measure is exercise - walk to build strength.  Oxygen and medication may also be used to relieve the symptoms.