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August 12th, 2021
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious respiratory disease that presents significant challenges not only to the US but also to the global healthcare system. The disease develops due to the occurrence of two diseases that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although the symptoms of COPD such as chest tightness and dyspnea cause discomfort in patients, they are manageable. However, in some cases, COPD can result in significant complications, thus causing the death of the patients. Therefore, learning COPD with a focus on its prevalence, pathophysiology, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, complications, and patient education can help in developing better ways of treating the disease to prevent the associated mortalities.

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Prevalence and Mortality in COPD

COPD is a prevalent disease that causes a considerable number of mortalities not only in the United States but also globally. According to Terzikhan et al. (2016), COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide. The scholars further argue that the prevalence of the disease has not reduced despite many researchers devising appropriate treatment and prevention methods (Terzikhan et al., 2016). For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] (2014) assert that currently, 15 million adults in the United States, who represent about 6.3% of adults, have COPD. Additionally, CDC (2014) contends that no significant changes regarding the disease prevalence have been noted in the United States from 1999 to 2010. Therefore, researchers should do further investigations to understand the cause of the persistent prevalence of COPD so that they can find the most useful approach to reducing it.

Although many researchers associate smoking with the increased prevalence of COPD, not many of smokers develop the disease. Terzikhan et al. (2016, p. 786) provide statistics that indicate that only 20% of smokers develop COPD. According to the scholars, other factors such as asthma, air pollution, occupational exposures, and low socioeconomic status may be contributing to the high prevalence of the disease. Thus, Terzikhan et al. (2016) indicate that approximately 15% of the COPD cases occur when individuals expose themselves to causative agents at their places of work. Thus, investigation of various causes of COPD can help to develop ways of preventing the increasing prevalence of the disease.

Finally, COPD is associated with a considerable number of mortalities. For example, CDC (2014) provides statistics which show that currently, 35.6 per 100,000 women die of COPD. The CDC (2014) asserts that this figure has not changed significantly since 1999. Hence, a high mortality rate signifies the need to study the disease management further and design effective strategies for preventing the associated deaths.

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Pathophysiology

COPD develops due to the damage of the air sacs and the bronchioles. According to Tuder and Petrache (2012), COPD occurs because of two diseases, particularly emphysema and chronic bronchitis. They further assert that emphysema damages the air sacs. The change in the anatomy of the air sacs reduces the surface area needed for oxygenation, thus leading to impaired gaseous exchange in an individual. Further, Tuder and Petrache (2012) contend that bronchitis is a situation where the bronchial tubes become inflamed. This condition causes the production of mucus that leads to a persistent cough and shortness of breath. When bronchitis becomes chronic, it results in increased mucus production in the bronchioles, which causes more coughing and significant challenges to breathing. A combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis increases the symptoms of dyspnea, inflammation, and mucus production in the airway, a condition called COPD.

Symptoms of COPD

The symptoms of COPD often take time before they begin to manifest. According to Amalakuhan and Adams (2015), the symptoms become evident after the lung has been damaged and get worse over time. The scholars further argue that the symptoms are severe in individuals who smoke, and the two primary symptoms include sputum production and coughing. Continuous production of mucus triggers coughing, which can happen persistently for three months. Thus, healthcare providers must rule out COPD in people with increased sputum production and a persistent cough.

The two symptoms further lead to other manifestations that cause significant discomfort in patients. Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) indicate that increased mucus production causes shortness of breath, particularly when an individual is engaged in any activity. In addition, wheezing is common in such patients, and they have to clear their throats often. A persistent cough also leads to fatigue since an individual requires energy to cough. Finally, Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) indicate that COPD may result in unintended weight loss and respiratory infections. Therefore, a proper diagnosis and prompt management is necessary to prevent the worsening of the disease.

Diagnosis

Identifying COPD challenges healthcare providers because the symptoms of the disease are similar to those of other illnesses. Consequently, Terzikhan et al. (2016) argue that many patients that have COPD are diagnosed when the disease is at an advanced stage. Terzikhan et al. (2016) further argue that it is imperative to review the symptoms of the patient and ask about any exposure to diagnose COPD efficiently. Patients that have increased production of mucus, a persistent cough, and have been exposed to fumes or tobacco smoke continuously are most likely to be suffering from COPD. However, an analysis of the symptoms and risk factors is insufficient to ascertain the correct diagnosis, and thus, diagnostic tests are necessary to confirm the diagnosis of COPD. According to Terzikhan et al. (2016), lung function tests that measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled are useful in confirming the diagnosis of COPD. Furthermore, the scholars ascertain that spirometry as one of the lung function tests can detect COPD even before the symptoms develop (Terzikhan et al., 2016). To confirm the diagnosis, a healthcare provider might want to identify the two diseases that cause COPD. In such cases, chest X-ray and CT scan can detect emphysema as mucus production. Then, a persistent cough can confirm chronic bronchitis. Accordingly, healthcare providers should prioritize spirometry and other tests such as X-ray after taking patient history to confirm the diagnosis of COPD.

Treatment of COPD

Pharmacological Management

Controlling the symptoms is a useful method of treating COPD. According to Amalakuhan and Adams (2015), bronchodilators are efficient in managing COPD because they relax bronchial muscles. Consequently, they allow efficient gaseous exchange, thus preventing episodes of dyspnea.

Chronic bronchitis as one of the diseases that cause COPD results in inflammation of the bronchial walls. Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) argue that administering appropriate steroids can reduce inflammation. This treatment approach is useful since inflammation can exacerbate the symptoms.

Finally, the healthcare provider must also check if the patient has infections. Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) argue that respiratory infections often exacerbate COPD symptoms. In such cases, appropriate antibiotics are necessary to help in managing COPD.

Non-Pharmacologic Approach

Although reliable evidence indicates that COPD causes high mortality, efficient non-pharmacologic treatment methods exist. Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) argue that the first and the most appropriate method of treating COPD is smoking cessation. According to scholars, smoking exacerbates the symptoms and further worsens the disease outcomes (Amalakuhan & Adams, 2015). However, quitting smoking is not easy. Therefore, Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) indicate that healthcare providers should consider administering nicotine products to help patients avoid smoking. In cases where patients have significant breathing challenges, a healthcare provider can recommend oxygen. This method is useful, as it ensures that the patients can perform their daily activities without experiencing breathlessness.

Complications

If COPD is not treated properly, the symptoms can result in complications. Vestbo et al. (2013) argue that COPD can cause heart failure, which often manifests in edema and breathlessness. Additionally, patients may develop an acute exacerbation of the symptoms such as increased mucus production and dyspnea, which may cause significant challenges to their quality of life (Vestbo et al., 2013). Finally, Vestbo et al. (2013) indicate that continuous damage to the lungs can lead to end-stage lung disease and ultimately death. Therefore, diagnosing COPD at its early stages can prevent these complications and increase the patient’s quality of life.

Patient Education

Patient education is necessary to enhance the efforts towards reducing the prevalence of COPD. Healthcare providers should teach patient to comply with treatment to increase its efficacy in controlling the symptoms. Amalakuhan and Adams (2015) identify weight loss as one of the symptoms, and thus, patients must consume a healthy diet to maintain their weight. Finally, since COPD causes fatigue, patients must be told to exercise regularly for endurance. These measures can improve the management of COPD.

Conclusion

COPD causes significant challenges to the global healthcare system. Although many researchers have studied the disease, its prevalence and associated mortalities have not reduced significantly. COPD occurs because of the presence of two diseases that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Some of the symptoms include sputum production and coughing. These symptoms cause discomforts in patients. Therefore, a proper diagnosis that involves a detailed patient history and the use of diagnostic tests such as spirometry is necessary to determine treatment. The treatment methods include controlling the symptoms with medications and smoking cessation for the smokers. Most importantly, patients must be taught to comply with treatment to prevent the occurrence of complications such as heart failure.

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