Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to several progressive lung conditions, such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory asthma. The term is used to indicate a lung condition in which there is permanent damage to the airway and the alveoli. Alveoli refer to the small pockets in which gas exchange occurs in the lungs. COPD ranks as the third-leading cause of death for individuals in the United States. Individuals with COPD often have dyspnea in their daily living activities.
Many individuals require constant oxygen administration to ensure that their bodies have an adequate level of oxygenation in their bodies. While the condition is associated with long-term cigarette smoking, it can occur in individuals who do not smoke. It normally does not occur in individuals until they have reached twenty pack years of smoking or more. A pack year is defined as one pack per day per year. If an individual smokes more than one pack per day, the pack years accumulate more rapidly (COPD Foundation, 2015).
The best way to prevent COPD is for an individual not to smoke, or to be exposed to second-hand smoke. Since the disease may develop as a result of occupational hazards, all PPE must be utilized in an occupational setting. If an individual currently smokes, the person should be encouraged to quit smoking. Various smoking cessation programs may be offered to the individual in order to assist with this goal. Once an individual has developed COPD, the condition cannot be cured; rather, it must be managed. COPD is best managed with medications designed to improve the airflow in the individual. Beta-agonist inhalers, such as Albuterol, are often used for this goal. The individual often utilizes them only when dyspnea occurs. The amount of dyspnea that an individual will experience depends upon the number of alveoli that have been destroyed. In individuals with more severe cases of the condition, corticosteroids may be utilized to help reduce the swelling in the airway. In individuals with severe dyspnea without exertion, oxygen may be prescribed for the person (American Lung Association, 2015).
A proper diagnosis is essential for an individual. A diagnosis of COPD is made with pulmonary function testing. In order to be diagnosed with COPD, the PFTs must indicate a score of less than 70% on the FEV1 portion of the test. In the case study presented, a relatively young individual (33 years old) presents with sudden dyspnea and back pain. The first provider failed to conduct any diagnostic testing. This error likely occurred because of the patient’s age. The provider failed to consider COPD and congestive heart failure. However, since there are other conditions that may cause critical failures of the respiratory system, the provider made a critical error in not conducting any testing. On this individual, blood work (blood cultures, as well as the white blood cell count) indicated sepsis, or a systematic infection. Chest radiography indicated consolidation and fluid. As a result of this, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) was diagnosed. This diagnosis is appropriate. The individual requires intubation and ventilatory support. Ventilatory support, as well as the weakened lung condition, resulted in a pneumothorax of both lungs. This required the individual to receive bilateral chest tubes. This case study clearly indicates the importance of receiving a thorough diagnostic workup for all cases of dyspnea. Without empirical evidence, a diagnosis cannot be made. PFTs would have indicated that the individual had a lung condition; however, it would not have shown a diagnosis of COPD (Mosenifar, 2014).
COPD is a chronic lung condition characterized by progressive destruction of the alveoli. The alveoli are where gas exchange occurs in the lungs. COPD is often associated with smoking or occupational hazards. It is treated with inhalers, corticosteroids, and continuous oxygen administration in advanced stages. It can be prevented by not smoking and avoiding environmental contaminants.