An individual diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD have episodes when the respiratory symptoms abruptly flare up. These are known as COPD exacerbations.
These are an issue of concern since they complicate an already serious ailment. When it comes to COPD, any impairment incurred by the lungs is usually permanent and might hasten the progression of the disease.
What are the causes?
Viral and bacterial infections of the lungs are the usual triggers for COPD along with the following:
- Air pollution
- Exposure to toxic fumes or strong odors
- Airborne allergens such as pollen, dust and animal dander
The COPD exacerbations are likely to arise among those who are poorly treated or not following their prescribed therapy. Among those who are under treatment, the exacerbations are likely to arise if:
- Smoking is not fully stopped
- Oral drugs are not taken as instructed
- Both short and long-term inhalers are not correctly used
- The individual only depends on medications and does not engage in a holistic rehabilitation regimen
What are the indications?
During acute COPD exacerbations, there is constriction of the airway passages, increased mucus production and inflammation brought about by the immune system.
The usual signs generally include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Change in the thickness, color or amount of mucus
- Increased coughing with or without evident mucus
Management of COPD exacerbations
The COPD exacerbations are often managed with rescue bronchodilators that open the airway passages and lessen the inflammation. Other treatments can be utilized depending on the phase of COPD and seriousness of the symptoms such as:
- Glucocorticosteroids (these are inhaled during the flare-ups)
- Oxygen therapy
- Respiratory stimulants
- Antibiotics to deal with any underlying bacterial infection
Among cases with the advanced disease or those with severe respiratory distress, hospitalization might be necessary. In such cases, the treatment includes intravenous glucosteroids and invasive ventilation.