COPD: Counting Cannulas

November 13, 2012 posted by Len B.

Cannula (pronounced can-U-lah): clear, plastic tubing worn around the head and across the face that feeds supplemental oxygen directly into the nostrils either from oxygen tanks or an oxygen concentrator. All about COPDCannulas are typically used by patients with severe lung deficiencies. They are NOT a cure for anything; their sole purpose it to make life somewhat easier for those afflicted with various lung diseases and to keep them alive a little bit longer than they might otherwise be expected to live.

Just about everyone is aware of the connection between lung cancer and smoking. Studies have shown that as many as 1 in 4 people who smoke 5 or more cigarettes per day will eventually develop lung cancer. As bad as those statistics are, there’s yet another lung disease caused by smoking that many people are not as aware of. It’s called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD for short.

COPD is a progressive lung disease that, as time goes by, makes it harder and harder for people to breathe. You may have heard COPD called other names, like emphysema or chronic bronchitis. In people who have COPD, the airways—tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs—become partly blocked, which makes it more difficult to get air in and out. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD, often occurring in people age 40 and over with a history of smoking. Research indicates that anywhere from 25% to as high as 50% of current and former smokers will develop COPD. Sadly, they also account for up to 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. Although there is no known cure for the disease , it is possible to slow its progression by quitting smoking. Some studies even indicate that lung function can improve by as much as 30% within 9 months of having stopped smoking.

There are various methods used in an attempt to alleviate some of the symptoms of COPD, including supplemental oxygen and medicinal inhalers. Those whose COPD has progressed to the point that they require supplemental oxygen must wear what is known as a cannula (pronounced can-U-lah) – clear plastic tubing that feeds oxygen directly into the nostrils either from oxygen tanks or an oxygen concentrator.

The next time you’re at your local VA Medical Center, make a mental note of your fellow veterans and their loved ones who are wearing cannulas – keeping in mind that smoking probably played a major role in their need for supplemental oxygen using cannulas so that they can live a little more comfortably and survive a little bit longer.

For a better idea of what it’s like to live with COPD, check out the videos below:

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