An exacerbation is most commonly associated with COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A flare-up or worsening of conditions is referred to as an exacerbation and can be as a result of an infection, though the cause is not always known.
There are various symptoms to let a person know that they are having exacerbations. This includes similar symptoms to that of pneumonia or a major infection. The color of the phlegm should be noted and if it is deep yellow, green, or even brown or red, it is a good indication that there is an exacerbation going on. Many people also experience an increased shortness of breath, a heavy cough and noisy breathing.
People will sometimes be hospitalized for the exacerbations. In such an instance, they are given antibiotics and sometimes via IV. Oxygen may also be provided, blood tests will be administered, and chest x-rays will be performed.
The lungs are not always able to take in enough oxygen during an exacerbation because the worsening has increased to such a significant level. Many health care providers believe that early treatments can help to prevent the exacerbations from reaching this level, though it will vary from patient to patient.
When there is difficult breathing, a ventilator may be required. Doctors will then ease the patient off the ventilator slowly over the next few days. When the symptoms have gotten severe, a person may be on a ventilator for several weeks in order to gain the strength to breathe on their own. When this occurs, it is known as ventilator dependency.
Exacerbations do not always require hospitalization. Some people will simply experience shortness of breath that is slightly more several than usual. There are more medications available than ever before that can help to reduce the symptoms and prevent a person from being admitted into the hospital.
Ignoring the symptoms of an exacerbation is the worst thing that a person can do. This is why it is critical for people with COPD to understand what exacerbations are, how COPD can become worse when exposed to harmful pollutants or with a cold/flu or illness, and other details.
A doctor will be able to provide instruction in terms of how to treat the symptoms. This will ensure a person can function at their peak level once again in a short period of time, and potentially avoid a stay inside of a hospital.