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Health professionals should support people with COPD to stay well

Study explores chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its effects.
COPD

This study explored the lived experiences of 14 people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Three main themes emerged: trapped in an invisible cage; torments in the winter; and striving for wellness.

In the first theme participants described the sense of confinement because difficulty in managing breathlessness discouraged them from leaving their home where they felt more secure.

Sleeping patterns affected

There was also a sense that normal life had been derailed with respect to sleeping patterns: It is hard to breathe when I lie down in bed and eating habits: my appetite was affected by breathlessness. I lost a lot of weight in 2 years because I didnt eat much.

The second theme related to their airways, which were sensitive to low temperatures. Acute exacerbation was more likely to

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This study explored the lived experiences of 14 people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Three main themes emerged: trapped in an invisible cage; torments in the winter; and striving for wellness.

COPD
Low temperatures led to coughing followed by feelings of breathlessness. Picture: iStock

In the first theme participants described the sense of confinement because difficulty in managing breathlessness discouraged them from leaving their home where they felt more secure.

Sleeping patterns affected

There was also a sense that normal life had been derailed with respect to sleeping patterns: ‘It is hard to breathe when I lie down in bed’ and eating habits: ‘my appetite was affected by breathlessness. I lost a lot of weight in 2 years because I didn’t eat much’.

The second theme related to their airways, which were sensitive to low temperatures. Acute exacerbation was more likely to occur in winter.

Winter pressures

Low temperatures led to coughing that was quickly followed by feelings of breathlessness. One participant said: ‘I couldn’t breathe…it was just like my neck was being squeezed…I was afraid my heart might stop beating’.

In the final theme participants described their efforts to stay well by avoiding contracting flu and stopping smoking.

The researchers concluded that health practitioners need to educate people about ways to increase their sense of security to go outside including the use of portable oxygen systems.

They should also provide advice about nutrition; sleeping, which currently includes use of non-invasive ventilators and medication; the importance of keeping warm; and support to give up smoking.


Chang Y, Dai Y, Chien N et al (2016) The lived experiences of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a phenomenological study. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 48, 5, 466-471.

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