Acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: – Symptoms, Treatment
An acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a sudden worsening of symptoms in individuals with pre-existing COPD. COPD is a chronic lung disease characterized by airflow limitation and respiratory symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and wheezing.
During an acute exacerbation, there is a marked increase in these symptoms, often leading to a decline in lung function. Exacerbations can be triggered by a variety of factors including respiratory infections (such as viral or bacterial infections) exposure to air pollution, irritants or allergens and noncompliance with medical treatment.
Symptoms of an acute exacerbation of COPD may include:
- Increase in shortness of breath: A person may experience a sudden and severe increase in breathlessness, making even simple activities difficult.
- Persistent cough: Coughing may get worse, occur more frequently and produce a greater amount of mucus (sputum). The color of the sputum may also change, becoming thicker and darker.
- Wheezing: The person may experience an increased wheezing or whistling sound while breathing.
- Chest tightness or discomfort: There may be a feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest.
- Fatigue or malaise: Acute exacerbations can lead to increased fatigue, weakness and a general feeling of unwell.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience an acute exacerbation of COPD. Your healthcare provider can assess the severity of the exacerbation and prescribe appropriate treatment. Treatment options may include:
- Bronchodilators: Medicines that help relax and open the airways, improving breathing. These may include short-acting bronchodilators or long-acting bronchodilators (such as tiotropium).
- Corticosteroids: Anti-inflammatory drugs that help reduce inflammation of the airways. They are usually prescribed in oral or inhaled form to reduce the severity of exacerbations.
- Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection is suspected or confirmed, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection.
- Oxygen therapy: In severe cases where the oxygen level is low enough, supplemental oxygen may be provided to maintain adequate oxygen.
- Pulmonary rehabilitation: After an acute exacerbation, a structured program of exercise, breathing exercises and education may be recommended to improve lung function and overall respiratory health.
Prevention of acute exacerbations involves managing and reducing risk factors. This includes quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to environmental pollutants and irritants, receiving vaccinations (such as the flu and pneumococcal vaccines) and following prescribed medications and treatment plans.
acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma