What’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
A group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties, which includes emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways). It’s a common condition caused by long-term damage to lungs from breathing a harmful substance, usually cigarette smoke. It mainly affects middle-aged or older adults. Breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time and can limit normal activities, although treatment can help keep the condition under control. Symptoms can get worse in colder months.
Many people don’t realise they have COPD. 17,000 local people have been diagnosed but it’s estimated that this is half the number of people who actually have the disease. Bristol is a COPD hotspot, possibly because of a strong history of maritime and industrial trade and the tobacco industry.
What does our COPD team do?
It’s a team of dedicated healthcare professionals supporting people with chronic respiratory conditions, COPD. We treat patients at home to prevent unnecessary admission to hospital and helps people get home from hospital earlier. The team provides a treatment programme with personalised exercises and education to help patients understand and manage their own condition (known as pulmonary rehabilitation). It also assesses patients who might need to use oxygen at home.
To get COPD support from the team at home you’ll need to be referred by a healthcare professional, but you can refer yourself to the pulmonary rehab programme by calling 0117 961 7159 if you have a chronic respiratory condition. Visit briscomhealth.org.uk/our-services/copd.
Top tips for living with COPD
- Take your prescribed medication, including inhalers, as this can help control your breathing and prevent flare-ups. Read the information that comes with your medication to help you understand about possible interactions with other medicines or supplements.
- Stop smoking to help slow down or prevent further damage to your lungs. Speak to your GP for advice or visit nhs.uk/livewell.
Exercise regularly. How much you do will depend on your individual circumstances. Speak to your GP for advice before starting a new exercise programme.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying extra weight can make breathlessness worse. Lose weight through a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet. If you’re losing too much weight because eating makes you feel breathless, try to eat little and often. Speak to your GP or nurse about being referred to local dietician services.
- Get vaccinated. COPD can make you more vulnerable to infections. Everyone with COPD is encouraged to have the annual flu jab and the one-off pneumococcal vaccination. You can get these at your GP surgery and some local pharmacies.
- Check the weather. Cold and hot weather and humidity can cause breathing problems if you have COPD. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure you have enough of your medication in case your symptoms get temporarily worse.
- Practise breathing techniques. These include breathing control, which involves breathing gently using the least effort, with the shoulders supported. Learn more at blf.org.uk.
- Talk to others. Your GP or nurse may be able to reassure you, or you may find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychologist, or someone at a specialist helpline. Your GP surgery will have information about these. Some people find it helpful to talk to others who have COPD, either at a local support group or on the internet. Get more info at blf.org.uk.