Tips For Avoiding Acute Exacerbation Of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

In this blog, we will review a few simple things that the patient and the patient’s family with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and chronic asthma may use to prevent COPD exacerbations.

Many patients with COPD may have underlying chronic asthma and many are active or
former smoker.  Many may have associated emphysema in conjunction with intermittent symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis. Preventing a flare-up of COPD and/or underlying asthma may further help improve quality of life and may decrease use of acute care/hospitalization.

(1) Understanding severity of disease. One needs to understand underlying severity of COPD if underlying bronchial asthma or emphysema is present or not. There are no specific COPD cures, but controlling the symptoms helps improvement of respiratory symptoms and sense of wellbeing. One may consider pulmonary function test if not done to assess underlying severity.

(2) Understanding of acute or chronic COPD symptoms. Keeping a log of regular COPD symptoms and any changes may help to seek early medical treatment for control of COPD exacerbation in the early phase rather than later. The patient may get low-grade fever, increase in cough, quantity, change in the color, and/or increase shortness of breath.

(3) Home oxygen use. A few patients with COPD may need use of oxygen either at night or on exertion or continuously. This needs to be evaluated by their physician.

(4) Emergency plan. It would be good to have an emergency plan if there is worsening of the symptoms. If someone with severe asthma and/or COPD, it may be good to have a course of antibiotic and a tapering course of prednisone handy and start it with exacerbation of symptoms in conjunction with their primary care and/or pulmonologist. If there is worsening of COPD then it would be good to call 9-1-1 and go to the Emergency Room.

(5) Anxiety symptoms. Anxiety, COPD, asthma, emphysema symptoms go hand-in-hand.  With the change in respiratory symptoms and an increase in air hunger there may be fluctuation in anxiety and depression symptoms. Relaxation is the key. Slow deep breathing exercise may help.

(6) Exercise. Regular walking, breathing exercises and moderate strenuous exercise, depending on heart condition may be considered based on physician advice. This has been shown to decrease exacerbation of COPD, and clearing of respiratory secretions in the morning.

(7) Avoiding certain foods. Usually cold water, cold drinks, dairy products, ice cream, and chocolate may trigger underlying COPD/asthma. Bananas increase mucus formation.  This may be good to void. Many patients notice a change once they cut down the use or discontinue it.

(8) Medications. Use of inhalers, nebulizers, oxygen, its duration frequency and maximum dose, needs to be understood. The common mistake many COPD patients make is overuse of long-acting bronchodilators in place of short-acting inhalers or nebulizer treatment. This needs to be avoided. Correct inhaler technique is the key.

I hope this may help in understanding underlying symptoms of COPD and exacerbation factors and cut down any major flare-up.

Bronchial Asthma And Its Diurnal and Seasonal Variability from Ayurveda Perspective

In this blog will look into the seasonal change and variability of the diurnal changes and  its  symptoms and exacerbation of the bronchial asthma. It is a  reversible  airway obstructive disease . Will discuss integrative pulmonary medical perspective with use of Ayurveda to understand the disease at new angle.

Bronchial asthma is the bronchoconstrive disease lung disorder  with generally  good a bronchodilator response. It is one the common disorder with about 5% of population been affected at varying degree. An improvement of 12% and more than 200ml in Force vital capacity and or First Expiratory volume in first second on Pulmonary function test suggest underlying bronchial asthma. Also if the mechacholine challenge test is done and is positive at a lower concentration in a clinically adequate picture suggest underlying bronchial asthma. This are the general diagnostic criteria for diagnosis or asthma or exclusion of the bronchial asthma.

Bronchial asthma patient have a varying degree of the symptoms based on the degree of the severity of the disorder one has, specially if they have  more than 3-5 years of the symptoms. Bronchial asthma could be related to the intrinsic asthma factors or the extrinsic  cause or combination of both with allergic symptoms affecting the  nasal and sinus passages. The common asthma symptoms are cough, wheezing, post nasal drip and the reflux symptoms.

Patient with moderate to severe persistent bronchial  asthma symptoms may see a diurnal variation in their daily symptoms and also see the variability of   the symptoms as the weather changes. With the change in the  fall to winter, winter to spring or spring to summer they have different variability of the symptoms and it s exacerbation.

Now lets look into the asthma at different angle. Looking at the angle of Ayurveda and its relation with the daily symptoms. It helps to understand the reason for the change as diurnal variable or seasonal variability.

Ayurveda or traditional  Indian medicine has documented the day divided into 3 sets of 4 hours and similarly for the night also. This change happens with the movement of the sun and so is the change in the barometric pressure in the daytime and the  night time . This will has some effect on the airway in patients with bronchial asthma and change in the wheezing, cough, shortness of breath symptoms.

Ayurveda has describe the day in the Kapha, Pitta, and Vata periods. Kapha is earth and water. Pitta is fire and water. Vata is air and space combinations.  Ayurveda describes five basic elements of the universe from which the body and mind is formed. They are the five great elements namely Space, earth, water, fire, and earth. Body is formed with this permutation and combination of this elements based on one’s on genetics. So this five elements when combined in 3 different combination sets will give rise to 3 basic change or called the Dosha in Ayurveda. So there are Kapha dosha, Pitta dosha and the Vatta dosha. This individual  dosha  again will  give rise to the 3 phases of time during the day and similarly during the night. Day time divided equally with the night time so 12 hours of day and night. As there are 3 dosha will  again divide the day and night in 3 sets again

The Kapha period ( earth + water component which increased at that time in the body  ) is 6am-10am or 6am-10pm where there is increase in flame formation and the mucus secretion. Patients generally have some respiratory symptoms at that time. The Pitta period  ( Fire+ water component increased at this time in the body) is 10am-2pm or 10pm -2am and generally  have the  increase in the acid secretion, GERD symptoms. Genrally there is  decrease in the bronchospasm at that time. Respiratory symptoms do get better generally around lunch time or around midnight  but may get worse latter.  The Vata  period ( air+ space increased at this time in the body) is 2pm-6pm or 2am-6am when the gas is more formed and passed, bronchospasm or cough may come back, person with heart problem may get chest tightness symptoms. Also the night time symptoms of use of inhalers in the middle of the night comes back.

As there is weather pattern in the nature  and it give rise to the   climate.  As discussed  above period  of Kapha, Pitta and Vatta  will give rise to the Kapha period of weather in winter time, Vata period in the spring and the fall time and Pitta period in the summer time. So the patient depending on the genetics  or the Prakruti of the person will have some phase more worse then the other. Some may have worse time in the spring but summer may not be as bad or symptoms may almost goes away. In some it comes in the fall  but winter may be ok. And in some the winter and fall is bad but spring and summer may not be as bad.

By understanding  one owns asthma symptoms if one keeps a log of the symptoms and keep a small diary and the peakflow  one can understand the pattern of the asthma. This may help as a useful guide to prevent future attacks or at least understand the sequence of events happening and more preventive measure may be taken accordingly. If one shows its pattern to their doctor may further guide accordingly.