Unstoppable coughing. Shortness of breath. Wheezing. Sounds like an asthma attack, right? Before grabbing an inhaler or those over-the-counter cough drops, however, it may be time to see if another culprit – COPD – could be causing the problem. As many as 12 million Americans are currently living with COPD (and another 12 million who are likely to have the disease but have not been diagnosed), so it’s important to figure out the real cause behind the cough.
Some of the major differences between these two conditions include:
- Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, dust, and pet hair can trigger asthmatic symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.
- Usually displays in patients in childhood, often by age 5.
- Thought to be caused by genetics.
- Environmental triggers can exacerbate symptoms like coughing and difficulty breathing, but these symptoms are often present in a milder form regardless of air quality.
- Typically diagnosed after age 40.
- Caused mainly by cigarette smoking (in up to 90% of all patients), or by secondhand exposure to air pollutants.
Available medication options for either condition might be the same – bronchodilators or inhaled steroids – but, treatment plans between the two are very different. Those with asthma are urged to stay away from known triggers, such as limiting outside time when the pollen count is high and avoiding secondhand smoke. Those with COPD require a more intense approach, which may include prescribed oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation to maximize breathing capacity, and, most importantly, making sure they’re not smoking.
Of course, it’s important to visit the physician if you’re concerned that your senior loved one is suffering with any type of lung condition.
Even though there’s currently no cure for either asthma or COPD, both conditions are better managed when properly diagnosed and treated. COPD causes permanent, irreversible damage to the lungs, but with treatment, the progression of the disease can be slowed down, its symptoms made more manageable, and quality of life maximized.
Live Well at Home by Eskaton is also here to offer the assistance at home that can help make a chronic condition much easier to manage. Some of the many ways we can help include:
- Light housework, to ensure as much dust as possible is removed from the home
- Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and to pick up prescriptions
- Encouragement and participation in physician-approved exercise programs
- Planning and preparation of nutritious, delicious meals
- Friendly, compassionate companionship
- And much more
To help your senior loved one remain safe and healthy at home, contact Live Well at Home’s in-home care experts at 916.459.3220.