Managing COPD

COPD is a condition that, once you have it, it will stay with you for life. However, there are many ways in which you can live well with it.

Learn more about COPD and its causes, symptoms and treatment so that you can take steps to keep as healthy as possible and enjoy life to the full.

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is the term used to describe long term damage to the lungs, usually caused by cigarette smoking.

  • Chronic – it is a long-term condition and does not go away.
  • Obstructive – your airways become so narrowed that it is more difficult to get air into and out of your lungs.
  • Pulmonary – it affects the lungs.
  • Disease – abnormal changes within the body that leads to airway narrowing or emphysema.

There are three main problems that occur within the lungs that make up the condition COPD. These are:

  • Chronic bronchitis – having a troublesome cough that brings up phlegm for at least three months on most days every year.
  • Emphysema – the assets within the lungs get damaged and become larger and less effective.
  • Airlow obstruction – this is where the long Airways are narrowed making it more difficult to breathe air in and out.

What causes COPD?

COPD is caused by environmental triggers that cause inflammation within the lungs.

Most commonly, this is due to cigarette smoking. However, it can also occur due to air pollution, smoke from fuel, and passive smoking. Sometimes, COPD runs in families and genetics can be a contributor as well.

There is more to learn about the causes of COPD in Sierra Leone.

Symptoms of COPD

Symptoms of COPD include:

  • A persistent cough that produces large amounts of mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Breathlessness / shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain


How to Live Well with COPD

It is possible to live and manage well with COPD. You can take steps to live a healthy, active life, giving you the best chance of keeping the condition stable. There are also medications that can help manage your condition.

To manage the disease, it is important to be active and exercise. This keeps your muscles functioning well, allowing you to use your lungs in the best way possible. Sometimes, this is offered through specific exercise programmes such as pulmonary rehabilitation. Often, just recognising that it is safe and normal to get breathless when exercises encourages people to exercise and live better.

Avoiding triggers that will worsen your lung condition is key and this includes keeping away from people with viruses, avoiding smoke and other environmental exposures and resting when you feel a worsening of your chest condition.

Understanding how best to look after your lungs when they’re in a stable state and when you face a worsening of the chest condition is important. Meeting with a clinician to understand the best inhaler and tablet therapy for you is key. You will likely be given specific advice of what to do in the event of a chest worsening (exacerbation) such as use of antibiotics or steroid tablets.

Looking after yourself generally, such as remembering to take medication, keeping warm and eating well, is also really important. Some people understandably feel anxious or low in mood when they find out they have a long term lung condition and getting help to think positively about living well is important.