4 Myths About COPD: There’s Treatment and Help

Think of your lungs as two balloons. When they’re healthy, they expand just like latex balloons at a birthday party. But diseased lungs lose their elasticity and can’t function at their peak performance. 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for that condition, and it comes in two varieties. Chronic bronchitis is when your breathing tubes are swollen and narrow, making it hard to take in air and hard to exhale completely. Emphysema is when the air sacs inside your lungs are damaged, which means they carry less oxygen to your lungs and also trap old air inside so there’s no room for fresh air.

Whether you have emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or both, our medical experts at Rockland Thoracic & Pulmonary Associates specialize in lung failure issues and can help you manage your symptoms and live life to fullest. With five locations in New York and New Jersey, it’s easy to partner with our team and get your COPD under control.

Over the years, we’ve discovered that there are some common misconceptions floating around about COPD that may lead you astray. We’re here to dispel the rumors and give you the real skinny on COPD facts so you can get the right treatment for your condition.

Myth 1: COPD is a smoker’s disease

COPD afflicts more than 16 million people here in the United States (and likely millions more who are undiagnosed). And although the overwhelming primary cause is tobacco smoke, it’s not the only thing that causes COPD. Other common causes are:

Even wood-burning stoves can lead to COPD. And women, whether they smoke or not, tend to get COPD more often than men. 

Another smoking-related COPD myth is that once you have COPD, there’s no reason to quit. That what’s-done-is-done mindset is incredibly dangerous. Studies show that the cessation of smoking is actually the most important treatment for COPD. It stops the progression of COPD and reduces the mortality rate. 

Myth 2: Exercise is not an option if you have COPD

Life is full of vicious cycles, and the COPD vs. exercise is one of them. Here’s how it goes: Your COPD makes it hard to breathe, so you don’t exert yourself, but your sedentary lifestyle makes you lose your stamina, which makes it hard to breathe, which exacerbates your COPD.

Get off the merry-go-round and get back in the swing of life. Our team can help you learn how to participate in physical activity that will keep your heart and body healthy without complicating your COPD.

Myth 3: COPD only involves the lungs

While it’s true that COPD is a lung disease, it actually has a spillover effect that involves other body systems.

Because COPD restricts the amount of oxygen you get, your heart has to do double duty to send blood to and through your lungs. This sustained pressure on your vascular system may lead to heart disease or a heart attack.

Often overlooked, your mental health may suffer if you have COPD. Depression is common among those who suffer from this lung condition, largely due to the isolation factor that often goes hand in hand with COPD. 

Because they can’t keep up with their friends, COPD sufferers may decline social invitations and other activities. Coughing and wheezing attacks can be stressful and embarrassing, which also factors into the self-imposed solitary lifestyle and exacerbates depression symptoms.

Myth 4: There no effective COPD treatments

There’s no cure for COPD, and you can’t reverse it, but there are some very effective ways to treat your symptoms and make breathing much easier.

If you have chronic bronchitis, there are two types of inhalers that can help: bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids. If you have emphysema, supplemental oxygen via a portable unit can bring you great relief and peace of mind.

If your COPD is severe, our team may recommend a mechanical ventilator or even extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This is a machine that draws your blood, removes carbon dioxide, boosts it with oxygen, and returns it to your system. 

In extreme cases, we may recommend a lung-reduction surgery to remove damaged tissue.

Whatever type or stage of COPD you have, you can trust our team of pulmonary experts to guide you through the facts and let you know all your treatment options so you can live a fulfilling life. If you’re suffering from COPD, call us or request an appointment online today. We have New York offices in Pomona, Goshen, Fishkill, and the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and an office in Englewood, New Jersey.

We also offer phone and telemedicine appointments.