Healthcare: The Role of Primary Care Professionals

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COPD and Asthma: How Your Doctor Can Help

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This article explores how a doctor can diagnose and treat conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Read on to find out more!

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-term condition that causes problems in your lungs. It makes your airways narrower, so it's harder for the air you breathe in to get out again. Asthma can be present all the time (chronic) or come and go (acute). It's sometimes called reactive airways disease to reflect this.

What is COPD?

COPD is an illness that makes it hard to breathe. COPD is a group of diseases that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is a long-term condition, which means it lasts for a long time and often worsens over time.

What are the symptoms of asthma and COPD?

The main symptoms of these conditions are breathlessness, cough, wheeze, tightness in your chest or a recurring chest infection. Coughing up yellow/green phlegm is also common with COPD and asthma.

How are COPD and asthma diagnosed?

If your GP thinks you might have either of these conditions, they will examine you and ask about any symptoms you're having and your medical history. The doctor will also ask where the pain is and whether it's worse when you breathe in or out. They will listen to your breathing for any unusual sounds. Finally, your doctor may give you a lung function test. This type of test measures the volume of air your lungs can hold and how quickly you can empty them.

How are COPD and asthma treated?

The type of treatment will depend on the severity of your condition. For example, some people with asthma can control their symptoms by taking regular inhaled steroids and avoiding anything that triggers their symptoms (such as dust mites or pollen).

If you have COPD, you will usually need to take medication to help open up your airways and make it easier to breathe. You may also need to use supplementary oxygen to help you breathe.

Your GP may refer you to other professionals such as a respiratory nurse who can give you advice and information and set up an individual treatment plan with your GP. They may also refer you to a physiotherapist who can help strengthen the muscles in your chest by doing breathing exercises as part of your treatment.

For more information about COPD and asthma, book an appointment to see a doctor in your area today.