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Hello,

My dad, who was a construction worker before he retired, has been dealing with repeated episodes of bronchitis over the years. Lately, the condition has become chronic and he often suffers from shortness of breath. It is so bad that I've noticed him dealing with severe dyspnea even after just walking a few steps, such as up to the car for instance.

He doesn't like to talk about it so I don't know exactly what medications he's on, but I know he has a pump and something for the sputum. Whatever he's getting, it's obviously not serving him well. I also wonder whether he has COPD. He wasn't a smoker for very long in his life but he was continuously exposed to all sorts of dust and irritants during his work.

I guess I'm just asking... what treatment options are there out there for him, that I could talk to him about?

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The pump you mention is called a vasodilator and it's probably salbutamol. This really helps people breathe more easily instantly, and is, as such, an effective emergency medication. Prednisone is often used to offer relief from chronic bronchitis as well, along with sometimes oxygen.  

One other very important step that your dad's doctor will definitely tell him about is that he needs a flu shot every year. People with chronic bronchitis are more prone to infections, and those can have devastating effects in them. There's nothing wrong with reminding him about it, though, as it's so very important.

In some cases, surgery is a possibility. This is something he would have to discuss with his doctor. 

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Hello coffee addict,

COPD is a combination of two different diseases in most cases, namely chronic bronchitis and also emphysema. This means that the air sacs at the end of the lungs have become damaged, compromising the amount of oxygen the person can receive.

COPD is usually caused by long-term smoking, but yes, being around industrial dust and chemicals for years can also induce it.

As an illness, COPD really reduces someone's quality of life, and I am sorry that your father is having to deal with these symptoms. Eating a healthy diet and trying to stay active can, to some extent, improve that, alongside medications. As a support person, the best you can do is to encourage your father to do these things.

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I am a 69-year-old male and was diagnosed with COPD in April. I quit tobacco on the spot, cold turkey, and have been trying to implement dietary and exercise changes ever since. I do have to say that I am very much uncertain about the implications of this diagnosis in the future. Frankly, I am frightened and don't dare to explore too much. It is precisely for this reason that I actively avoid finding out more about my condition. I understand that I cannot make any more proactive changes besides those I have already made, and I feel my past smoking (nearly lifelong) has doomed me to a lot of suffering. 

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Hello guest,

I understand. The fact that COPD is a chronic condition, rather than one that can be resolved with some medication, makes it especially scary for many newly diagnosed people. Your "ostrich" approach may not be unusual either, but I doubt it will serve you well. People with COPD like to say that COPD is no death sentence.

There are indeed things you can do. Someone upthread already mentioned flu shots, and I think a pneumonia shot is available as well. Apart from the very positive changes you have already made, the best things you can do is to keep talking to your doctor about what could reduce the long-term impact of COPD, and to raise the alarm any time you feel worse or think you may have an infection coming on.
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Two things that may help with patients with severe shortness of breath are:

- Getting an oximeter. This device slips on the finger to measure blood oxygen, pulse, and heart. If levels are strange, it will help you seek medical attention more quickly. It may also help you get access to oxygen to use at home more quickly than if you went without realizing what your levels were. 

- If you wake up at night with wheezing, sleeping with an elevated pillow can greatly help. This takes some time to get used to, but will greatly improve your comfort once you do. 

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Hi,

My mom suffered from chronic bronchitis and my dad had emphysema. Between them, they were on Prednisone, Salbutamol (Ventolin), Beclometasone, an awful lot of courses of antibiotics, and God knows what else. No oxygen, though. Whatever they were given kept symptoms in check, but it still got pretty bad on occasion. The main thing I'd encourage them to do is sit down and breathe slowly and deeply, and also steam with chamomile. When it got real bad, I'd take them to the doctor's. It's bad, but it is what it is. Helping people out is a nice thought, of course, but treatment is really all down to the doctors in these cases. 

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Thanks for sharing, folks. The last post was particularly helpful, but so were others. On an emotional level, it is terribly hard to see my dad suffering so much... and trying to appear as though everything is OK, which it's clearly not.

On a practical level, I do know. The best I can do for him is to make time to bus him to many doctor's appointments and to be emotional support. Chronic illness s*cks! It's so very hard to see the man who raised me decline so very quickly. :( 

What would an operation do for him? Is that worth it? He is 73 if that matters. 

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