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I have never been a smoker, but I have been a smoker’s caretaker. I witnessed my mother’s untimely death due to it. She developed a disease that we are starting to hear a great deal more about. The disease is called COPD. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. “Progressive” means the disease gets worse over time. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust, also may contribute to COPD

Three years ago my mother was diagnosed with this debilitating disease. It changed the entire way we lived.

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Currently you see the commercial for Advair on television. It seems that the disease is just as simply managed by taking a small puff on a little purple disk. That’s far from the truth.

My mother was diagnosed completely by accident. It was early one evening about 4 years ago she seemed to have an asthmatic episode. Usually when such an incident would occur we would take her to the hospital, she would be treated ands sent home. This time the doctor reached over to the area above her foot and pinched a tiny swath of skin. It did not retract.

Of course, your first instinct would be to think that age was a factor. When he called for a nurse and she did this test too, an alarm bell went off in my head. I knew they were concerned as they hurried away. A Respiratory Therapist was sent over to supply my mother with the usual treatment of inhaled steroids to ease her breathing. It helped but by no way did it completely supply relief. The doctors then informed me that they would be doing a complete exam and over night observation.

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Upon my return the next day my mother was diagnosed with emphysema, and bronchitis as well as COPD. I sat down with a doctor and he explained this disease. COPD is a disease in which the following happens:

  • The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
  • The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
  • The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed (swollen).
  • The airways make more mucus than usual, which tends to clog the airways.

COPD is a major cause of disability, and it’s the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD. An additional 12 million likely have the disease and don’t even know it. COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities.

Severe COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, cooking, or taking care of yourself. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people. The disease isn’t passed from person to person—you can’t catch it from someone else. COPD has no cure yet, and doctors don’t know how to reverse the damage to the airways and lungs.

However, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease. Towards the end of her life she was on oxygen twenty four hours a day and was limited to very little movement around the house. The progression of the disease is difficult to watch. My once vibrant mother was relegated to sitting in a chair watching television.

As the anniversary of her  death comes near d, I thought I would share a little information and incentive to help you quit.

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