COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. It is a collective name for chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

What is COPD?

If you have COPD, your lungs are damaged. As a result, you get less oxygen than people without COPD. With chronic bronchitis this is because the branches of the large windpipe (the bronchi) are always slightly inflamed. They will therefore produce more mucus. They also become thicker and stiffer. With emphysema, the wall of more and more lung vesicles is damaged. They then no longer participate in breathing. That process cannot be stopped. More and more lung vesicles are breaking. A cold, respiratory infections or irritating air (smoke and exhaust gases) make COPD worse.

The symptoms of COPD

Typical symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, giving up mucus and recurring infections. If you have COPD, your condition will deteriorate and you may suffer from fatigue, muscle weakness and weight loss.

Breathing is usually possible, but breathing-out in particular causes problems. As the COPD becomes more severe, normal breathing costs more and more energy and you get stuffy sooner. This may cause you to move less, which will weaken you even more. With starting COPD you mainly suffer from heavy physical exertion, such as cycling against the wind or running. If the COPD worsens, you will become anxious about climbing stairs and a brisk walk. Severe COPD has major limitations, at home and at work. COPD patients can also suffer from psychosocial problems such as depression, anxiety and social isolation.

The treatment of COPD

COPD cannot be cured. You can delay the disease process and ensure that you have fewer symptoms. A healthy lifestyle is especially important for COPD patients. More information about this can be found under “What you can do yourself” and “What physiotherapy can do”. Medication cannot repair the lungs, but it ensures that you cough less and feel less stuffy. This makes it easier to stay active. That is extra important if you have COPD.

What you can do yourself

The most important thing is: quit smoking. That always makes sense: even if you smoke for years. In addition, it is (extra) important to maintain your fitness level. That is not easy if you have COPD. With exercise you might get extra trouble with stuffiness and coughing. Yet exercise is of vital importance for people with COPD. Exercise improves circulation and strengthens your muscles. Trained muscles pump your blood around better, so that you are less likely to get stuffy. If you exercise insufficiently, your complaints will increase. After a while you will be able to do less and less. Your condition will also deteriorate if you are overweight, but also if you weigh too little. So make sure you eat regularly and healthily and keep an eye on your weight.

What physiotherapy can do

If you have COPD, moving is extra difficult. Perhaps you don’t even dare to make any effort at all because it keeps you so anxious every time. A physiotherapist can explain what you can and should not do. A physiotherapist can also teach you techniques that make you less bothered by coughing and stuffiness. To improve your fitness, you prepare a training program that suits you. This effort is usually rewarded: you have fewer complaints. As a result, your self-confidence grows and you naturally start moving more. Our physiotherapists offer special exercise programs in which you can work on your fitness in a responsible manner.