Peter Leighton, 71, from Barrowford was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) five years ago at the age of 66.
COPD is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. It’s a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke. Many people don’t realise they have it. The breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time and can limit your normal activities, although treatment can help keep the condition under control.
It is a progressive disease and currently there is no cure, but with the right diagnosis and treatment people can live for many years with COPD and enjoy life.
Peter wanted to take the opportunity during this month’s National COPD Awareness Month to explain how he lives a fulfilling life with this disease.
He said: “It didn’t come as a surprise to me as I had been smoking for a long time and whenever I caught a cold it would go straight to my chest and turned into bronchitis. I have two inhalers that I use. I use an inhaler called “Spiolto” which is a mixture of Tiotropium and
Olodaterol I use this each morning and it gives up to 24 hrs relief. I also use another inhaler called Salbutamol as and when needed for additional relief.
“Having COPD restricted my life and limited the things I could do. Things like going for a walk became difficult as I would get out of breath. There are different degrees of COPD, some people are worse than others.
“The nurse at Reedyford Healthcare referred me onto a Pulmonary Rehab course. The majority of people who get COPD are smokers. I was one of 10 people who attended the course once every week for 6 weeks. I felt the course was very informative and very interesting. It was great to hear the perspectives of others who are in the same boat as you.
“The course has given me the confidence to do exercises, gardening and walking. I feel fitter than what I did last year. I try to fit in exercise in my daily life and I try to do things like walking to a further newsagent to get my morning paper instead of the closest shop, obviously this depends on the weather. When I go to pick up the grandchildren I try to walk it to the school instead of taking the car.
“In the past I wouldn’t be confident to go on a walk because I used to get out of breath, which would make me feel anxious, so I wasn’t confident in case something happened. My incentive to do something about my health was my grandchildren. By making lifestyle changes I hopefully aim to live longer so that I may see the grandchildren grow up.
“I would definitely recommend this course to anyone. I feel the more information you have the better it is. My advice to anyone who has been diagnosed with COPD is:
• The first and foremost is to STOP smoking
• If your health permits then start doing exercises and go for walks etc.
• Book onto the Pulmonary Rehab course
“ If you are interested in trying pulmonary rehab you can speak with the pulmonary rehab team on 01282 805514. They are happy to answer any questions that you have about it , and can organise the referral directly with your GP practice.
Alternatively you may discuss this with your GP or practice nurse.
“You may have to go on a waiting list and it may take around a couple of months before you attend the course, so it is better to get yourself on the list as soon as you can. Once you have completed the course you can go on the course again the following year.”
The main symptoms of COPD are:
• increasing breathlessness, particularly when you’re active
• a persistent chesty cough with phlegm – some people may dismiss this as just a “smoker’s cough”
• frequent chest infections
• persistent wheezing
Peter’s GP, and the GP lead for respiratory conditions at NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Stuart Berry, said:
“Speak to your GP if you have a persistent cough for more than 3 weeks , or are having noticing that you are getting out of breath faster than you used to . Please don’t just put this down to getting older. There are many different reasons why people become short of breath when exercising , these include COPD , heart problems , anaemia etc . Your GP will consider COPD as a potential cause of your symptoms, particularly if you’re over 35 and smoke or used to smoke.
“Don’t ignore the symptoms. It’s best to start treatment as soon as possible, before your lungs become significantly damaged.
“Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and whether you smoke or have smoked in the past. They can organise a breathing test to help diagnose COPD and rule out other lung conditions, such as asthma.”
“Once you have your diagnosis and treatment has started, your GP can refer you onto courses such as the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Course, which can help individuals manage their symptoms and can help you live better lives. We have had great feedback on the course from many patients.”
You can find more information about COPD at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-copd/
There is also a web based version of pulmonary rehab which you can do online . All you need is something that can connect to the internet to watch videos , plus a password and account which your GP practice can create for you .
The myCOPD website is being used as part of the pulmonary rehab course . Why not take a look at it whilst you are waiting for a place on the regular course ?