The focus of respiratory therapy today is to aid a patient in recovering as full a range of lung function as possible when they are suffering from breathing problems. The most common conditions that require special breathing treatments include allergies, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and the more serious COPD. The forms that these treatments take are as varied as the illnesses they treat and their use and the medications they deliver will depend not only on the severity of the illness, but also on the patient's overall health.
Allergies and Asthma
Some allergies and asthma conditions cause the bronchial tubes within the lungs to become inflamed. When this happens, they will constrict and make breathing difficult to manage. During an attack, patients will often use a type of breathing treatment known as an inhaler to fight off the attack, and restore function to the bronchial tubes. This type of inhaler, also known as a rescue inhaler is really fast acting and will contain anticholinergics, corticosteroids or bronchodilators.
Long-term maintenance treatments are also done using inhalers but these deliver the proper medicine is smaller doses. This is meant to be a long-lasting treatment, affording protection from attacks by building up the bronchodilators in the lungs so that they spasm less frequently. Most asthma patients will use both, while allergy sufferers may only use one or the other. The treatments can be aided by patients avoiding known triggers such as dust, dander and mold in addition to being careful not to overdo aerobic exercises that may inadvertently trigger an attack due to exhaustion.
Bronchitis and Empysema
Bronchitis is a medical condition that inflames the main airways of the lungs. Symptoms associated with bronchitis may include harsh coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. This is often bacterial in nature, so antibiotics can be used as part of the treatment plan, augmented with corticosteroids. They are used just as it is in treatment for asthma, to cut down on the inflammation. Non-prescription medicines, including cough suppressants and medicated humidifiers will also help.
Ambhysema affects the air sacs near the end of the bronchioles within the lungs, rather than the airways themselves. The focus of treatments for this condition is to fight off the infection so that the sacs have a chance of healing on their own. Patients with this illness are advised to not smoke and to avoid second-hand smoke, at all times. Antibiotics as well as steroids are often included in respiratory therapy treatments and if it does not work, surgery may be needed to remove damaged lung tissue, in hopes of restoring lung function.
COPD is a more serious medical condition that has symptoms of both bronchitis and emphysema. These symptoms may include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and wheezing. A COPD inhaler will often introduce bronchodilators and steroids into the lungs to reduce inflammation and further respiratory treatments may be needed depending on the severity of the condition.
Oxygen therapy is another form of breathing treatment often used to treat severe COPD, as well as the more benign sleep apnea. The frequency of its use is dependent upon the severity of the condition. The treatment can be done at home or in special therapy sessions in a clinic. Sleep apnea patients will often use it during their normal sleep cycle, as the condition causes them to stop breathing while sleeping. Snoring can be a symptom of this condition and it occurs when the airway becomes blocked due to an inflated adenoid or tonsil or a flaw in airway itself. With oxygen flowing through a mask and into the airway, restful sleep can be achieved and the proper level of oxygen goes into the blood, as it should.