For those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can sometimes feel like a battle just to breathe.
The good news is that Fisher-Titus Medical Center has a team of doctors ready to help you in your fight against COPD, as well as a community of people who understand what you’re going through.
Join in on the partnership at 6 p.m. Wednesday, September 14 when the Pulmonary Medicine Department hosts its quarterly forum at the Jennings Auditorium at Fisher-Titus. The featured speaker will be Dr. Sara Graham, who will address the topic of “COPD and Palliative Care.” After her talk, there will be a time for questions and discussion, and light refreshments will be served.
COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. It can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and other symptoms. While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, it can also be caused by long-term exposure to lung irritants or even to secondhand smoke.
There is no cure for COPD, but Dr. Graham stresses that there are options. “There are a lot of things you can do to help promote your health with COPD, or even keep it from getting worse,” she says.
The obvious first step is to stop the source of the problem, whether it’s smoking, an on-the-job lung irritant or secondhand smoke. Next comes pulmonary rehabilitation. “The more activity you get, the better your lung function is going to feel overall,” Dr. Graham says. “It’ll help to be able to breathe better and to be able to function despite COPD.”
There also are many medicines that can help, including inhalers, long-term anti-inflammatory drugs and even low-dose anti-anxiety medication. “What can happen is, if someone is anxious, it makes them more short of breath,” explains Dr. Graham. “And then they become more anxious, and it kind of snowballs out of control.”
One very simple strategy that Dr. Graham recommends requires only an outlet and a fan. “There's actually some good evidence that blowing a fan on your face really, really helps your breathing,” she says. “You can feel less breathless if you get that cool air blowing on your face.”
While many people experience COPD that is mild and very treatable, others—especially those who continue to smoke—are sometimes faced with difficult decisions. Dr. Graham’s mission is to make sure they have all the information they need to make their own choices. “They’re driving the truck here,” she says. “They have autonomy, which allows patients to have a better sense of well-being knowing what they want to have happen in the future is going to happen.”
No matter the mildness or severity of someone’s COPD, being around other people facing the same struggle can prove very helpful, which is why events such as the upcoming COPD Forum are so important.
“I recommend for anyone with a chronic disease process to try to find these support groups to help them work with what they're going through, because it's very hard when you feel like you're alone,” Dr. Graham says. “Just coming and having that sense of community with people who have the same things going on as you do is huge.”
You don’t have to fight your COPD alone. Call 419-660-2117, Ext. 6488 to find out more about the Sept. 14 COPD Forum or call 419-660-2531 to schedule an appointment with one of our COPD specialists.