People with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) suffer from shortness of breath cause by narrowing of the airways. The symptoms are similar to those of asthma sufferers but the narrowed airway is reversible with asthma. COPD becomes progressively worse with time and cannot be reversed.

Cigarette smoking is the main cause of COPD. The diagnosis is a combination of two chronic diseases. An inflammatory response to noxious gases and particles inhaled from burning tobacco leads to chronic bronchitis in the larger airway. At the same time, the alveoli of the lungs are damaged by inflammation that leads to destruction of lung tissue and a diagnosis of emphysema.

Symptoms of COPD can worsen suddenly and result in an acute episode where the patient is struggling to breathe. Acute attacks may be triggered by inflections in the body or pollutants in the air. Tests to diagnose COPD will measure the volume of air inhaled by the patient as well as the speed of the air entering and leaving the airways as the person inhales and exhales.

Those who suffer from COPD require long term oxygen therapy. We’ve all noticed people in public who are carrying an oxygen pack or pulling a cart with an oxygen tank to help them breathe.

COPD cannot be cured but it is possible to manage the disease in an effort to slow the progress of symptoms and to prevent acute occurrences. Physicians recommend strategies for management that are often prefaced with a demand that the patient stop smoking immediately. Further management tactics include rehabilitation, the use of inhalers as drug therapy and obtaining recommended vaccinations.

Highly addicted tobacco smokers often ignore medical advice to stop smoking after receiving a diagnosis of COPD. They may believe they can’t quit but more often they feel it’s too late to quit as the damage to their lungs has been done. It is sad to see a person irrevocably linked to a tank of oxygen while inhaling yet more toxic tobacco smoke.

The rehabilitation includes sessions of exercise and of breathing steam in an effort to ease the flow of oxygen through the patient’s airway. The suggestions to use nicotine patches or gums are often ignored by those who are addicted to the experience of smoking. The recommendations are not seen as viable alternatives by a person with a habit that includes puffing on a cigarette, inhaling smoke and holding a cigarette in their hand.

Highly addicted tobacco users can enjoy the smoking experience they crave without additional lung damage by choosing to smoke e-cigarettes. They will have the full smoking experience without the toxic chemical compounds inhaled from burning tobacco. Although the evidence is only anecdotal to date, some COPD sufferers who have abandoned tobacco in favor of e-cigs claim an improvement in their overall quality of life. The absence of toxic compounds is a likely reason for this improvement but users also seem to think the vapor of e-cigs provides benefits similar to inhaling steam. Only careful testing in the future will resolve the question of whether this is a real benefit for COPD patients who cannot quit smoking.

Mary Kay Rivers is an expert on all aspects of electronic cigarettes. Her publications about the controversial substance propylene glycol in e-cigarettes or about the best e-cigarette have become very famous.

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Filed under: Stop Smoking

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