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November: COPD Awareness Month

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a generic term which includes a group of lung diseases. Some of these lung diseases include refractory asthma, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and emphysema. So, November is a COPD awareness month.

It has been estimated that 12 million Americans have COPD, while it is very likely that another 12 million are undiagnosed. Some of the most common symptoms of this health condition include:

  • chronic coughing
  • shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • wheezing

Women are more prone to developing COPD. In fact, in 2006, the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has killed more women than breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Around the world, over 210 million people are estimated to be affected by COPD.

Sleep apnea is a common comorbidity of COPD. Hence, many patients who have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also patients with obstructive sleep apnea and have a prescribed CPAP therapy.

Diagnosing and treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on time can help people with it improve their quality of life and health.

This month, why not check some important COPD-related resources and educate yourself about this disease.

Check American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) organization and become a member. As an AARC member, you will have access to a variety of resources to help in outreach efforts. This non-profit organization posts COPD-related messages on its website. You can share these posts to help spread awareness about COPD. When sharing their posts, use the #COPDMonth and tag the AARC.

Learn more about the NHLBI’s first-ever COPD National Action Plan. This plan was developed at the request of the United States Congress. It is a comprehensive framework for action by people with COPD.

Some of the most valuable AARC COPD resources and tips include:

  • Pulmonary Disease Educator Course
  • Alpha-1 Course
  • Guide to Portable Oxygen Concentrators
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program Toolkit
  • Clinician Training on Tobacco Dependence for Respiratory Therapists
  • Three Aerosol Drug Delivery Guides

Throughout November, the COPD Foundation partners with respiratory health organizations. They host a number of online and personal activities which involve COPD members. The National COPD Awareness Month is an internationally-recognized event held annually. Its aim is to boost exposure to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In order to get involved in these activities, you can:

  • Create a profile on COPD360 social and meet many new friends who have or understand COPD.
  • Download the COPD Awareness Month social media toolkit with everything necessary to share.
  • Participate in the Twitter Chat of your choice.
  • Join the Patient-Powered Research Network and enter to win $250.
  • Submit your photo to the Faces of COPD digital mosaic. This is an online dedication to the millions of individuals affected by COPD.
  • Take part in the U.S. COPD Coalition meeting.

You can find the complete list of National COPD Awareness Month activities and events on the COPD Foundation calendar. You can raise awareness of this disease and educate others about it.

Everything You Need to Know About Cardiac Arrhythmia Tests

Cardiac arrhythmia is a set of abnormal heartbeats, which means that the heartbeats either faster, slower, or more irregular than normal. Arrhythmias make the heart work harder so it can maintain a constant supply of blood to the body. Thus, people who experience arrhythmias might feel light headed, dizzy or even faint. There are some cardiac arrhythmias are harmless, but there are some which can be even life-threatening. What’s more, when the condition is severe, it can trigger a cardiac arrest. To diagnose whether you have cardiac arrhythmia or not, your physician might recommend undergoing a test. Hence, here are all the tests which can diagnose this condition.                                                                                                                                                   

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An ECG is one of the most common tests your physician might need to determine how your heartbeats. The test is usually performed in your doctor’s office. You will have electrodes or patches to different places on your body, including your chest, arms and legs. These electrodes record the activity of your heart and show how your heart beats by drawing a picture pattern. Your doctor will examine this pattern and decide whether you have a heart problem.

Holter Monitor

A Holter monitor is quite similar to ECG, but it monitors the activity of your heart for 24 to 48 hours. It also requires attaching electrodes or patches to areas on your body while the monitor will record the rhythm of your heart. This pattern will also provide an overall picture of your heart’s activity.

Event Monitors and Devices

As cardiac arrhythmias can happen almost every time, ECG might not be able to catch and record irregular heartbeats. Hence, many people will have to have their hearts monitored over a long period. These are the monitors that can be used at home to record your heart:

Event Monitors

If you have less frequent symptoms, you might need to use event monitors which will record your symptoms. Event monitors come in two types:

  • Symptom event monitor: Bracelets or handheld devices that feature small metal discs that function as electrodes.
  • Looping memory monitors: It’s small like a pager and connects to your body through electrodes that are attached to the monitor at all times.

Both these monitors are portable and they store the information so that your doctor can analyze later.

Implantable Loop Recorders

This device works as an event monitor to record the activity of your heart, but it’s implanted under your skin. It can be either programmed to record an arrhythmia when it happens or you can trigger it to record via a remote.

Other Testing

Besides the tests we already mentioned, your doctor might recommend additional tests which will determine the type or cause of cardiac arrhythmia.

Stress Test

This is an exercise test which shows how your heart works when you’re experiencing stress or exercise. Hence, it determined whether your arrhythmia is related to exertion. The test also requires having electrodes attached to your body while you run on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. A stress test can also be performed with medications which increase your heart rate rather than having to exercise.

Tilt-table Test

This is the recommended type of test for people who often faint. This test requires you to lie flat on a table. The position of the table changes several times while the doctor records both your heart rate and blood pressure. This test usually takes about an hour during which you might also be given medication through an IV to see how your heart responds.

Electrical Physiological Studies

This is an invasive procedure which is usually used for people who have had heart attacks or who have a fast heart rate. It is very useful for determining the type of arrhythmia a person experiences. The procedure requires threading thin wire electrodes through one of your veins and into your heart to study its rhythm.

Esophageal Electrophysiologic Procedure

This procedure requires placing a soft, thin, plastic tube up your nostril and down into your esophagus. It is more precise than a regular ECG as the esophagus is placed close to your heart’s upper chambers.

Transthoracic Echocardiography (TTE) and Echocardiograms

These procedures usually involve an instrument called a transducer, on which the doctor puts gel and move it over your chest to image the areas of your heart. With the help of sonar waves, the doctor takes a picture of your heart and determines its size, structure, and function.

Blood Testing

Besides monitoring your heart, your doctor might recommend having blood tests. The blood testing checks your levels of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, as well as, your cholesterol levels and the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood.

Test results

Your doctor will share the test results with you and decide whether you need some additional tests. If not, they will develop a treatment plan and discuss all possible treatment options with you. During this time, you should ask any questions you have.

The sooner you diagnose the cardiac arrhythmia, the better and more effective your treatment will be. Early detection of cardiac arrhythmias is crucial and can help you have a healthy and fulfilling life.

Possible Issues with Home Sleep Testing (And How to Avoid Them)

About 22 million Americans have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. OSA is a serious sleep disorder which should be diagnosed on time and treated appropriately.

To determine whether a person has obstructive sleep apnea, they have to undergo a sleep study. There are two types of sleep tests which are used to determine whether a person has sleep apnea and if they have, how severe is the condition.

One type is a Polysomnography (PSG), also called an in-house sleep test, which is conducted in a laboratory. The other type of sleep study is at-home sleep test. Both tests come with plenty of advantages. Which test you’re going to undertake depends on your preference and your sleep medicine provider will recommend one.

Nevertheless, the preferred sleep study for many individuals is the home sleep testing. However, you might experience some possible issues with this type of sleep study. Hence, we decided to list all possible issues with home sleep testing and how you can avoid them.

What is a Home Sleep Testing?

Home sleep testing is an exceptional way to diagnose sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, REM sleep behavior disorder, and sleep walking. The home sleep study is extremely beneficial for people who are uncomfortable sleeping in new places or ready to have their sleeping routine interrupted. Hence the home sleep study is performed in the comfort of your home with the necessary equipment.

Your sleep specialist or provider gives you the equipment, which includes sensors that register the apnea events. After performing the study at home, a physician or sleep specialist will review the results and give you a diagnosis.

Benefits of Home Sleep Testing

As we mentioned before, home sleep testing is especially convenient for people who don’t feel like sleeping in new environments is best for them, let alone knowing that they are being watched in the next room. So, here are some of the benefits this type of sleep study offers:

  • Comfort: Meaning you will sleep in your own bed and follow your typical night time routine. You will be given all the necessary instructions on how to use the equipment in order to get the best results.
  • Easy scheduling: You won’t have to wait for other patients to finish. Instead, you can perform the test wherever you want.
  • A perfect option for severe cases of OSA: If you show symptoms of severe OSA, your doctor will recommend a home sleep study as soon as possible. This is especially important as patients with severe OSA find it extremely difficult to sleep in new places.
  • Budget-friendly: Home sleep testing is budget-friendly and it is often more affordable for patients than the cost of a PSG.

Possible Issues with Home Sleep Testing

These are all possible issues you might encounter when performing home sleep testing:

  • They monitor only breathing and oxygen levels. The reason this is a possible issue is that not every sleep disorder causes breathing interruption.
  • These tests don’t rule out sleep apnea. They are more tests to detect the severity of the condition rather than its presence.
  • Home sleep tests aren’t recommended if you have mild to moderate sleep apnea.
  • You won’t be able to get a diagnosis of other medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure and COPD.
  • Home sleep testing can’t detect whether you’re awake or asleep as they only monitor breathing and oxygen levels. This means that they can even detect events which happen while you’re awake.
  • Many human errors are possible to happen, such as incorrectly placed sensors, or the sensors can fall during sleep. Having the sensors correctly places is crucial for the success of your results.

How to Avoid These Possible Issues

There are several tips which are worth knowing if you want to have a successful and accurate home sleep study.

Hence, you should share all the symptoms you experience with your medical provider who will determine whether home sleep testing is the right option for you. You should also be familiar with everything regarding home sleep testing and strictly follow the instructions provided to you for using the equipment.

Additionally, ask your sleep partner to help you conduct the test more successfully. They can help you place the sensors in the right places and check you throughout the night, whether the sensors are in the right place and whether the device is working.

Note that you shouldn’t use any body sprays, hair sprays, or gels the day before you conduct the sleep study as they can erode the gel on the sensors. Moreover, you should avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine as they interrupt your sleep patterns.

Last but not least, don’t change your bedtime routine because of this test. Instead, stick to it and make sure you don’t interrupt the test.

Luckily for you, these days many home sleep test devices are designed to beep when something is wrong or when the sensors fall off. Hence, you’ll be able to avoid all possible issues and perform a successful study.

VirtuSOM: Diagnose and Treat Insomnia in the Comfort of Your Home

Insomnia is a very common issue for many people all over the world. In fact, it is estimated to affect 20-30% of the population. This sleep disturbance has detrimental effects on human health and can have many negative consequences on your everyday life. In fact, insomnia is held responsible for 7.2 workplace accidents.

Nowadays, there are plenty of insomnia treatments. However, most of them are either ineffective or too costly for many people. So, what can you do to address this issue and eliminate the symptoms which accompany insomnia? Why not try VirtuSOM!

VirtuSOM: Diagnose and Treat Insomnia in the Comfort of Your Home

VirtuSOM is an all-in-one solution for your insomnia. This device is an effective and objective way to diagnose and treat this sleep disorder. What makes it so great is that you can use it without risking drug dependency.

Hence, unlike most of the other ineffective and expensive treatment options, VirtuSOM provides healthcare professionals with an effective and objective tool in diagnosing insomnia

This device features a lightweight headband you should wear on your forehead. This headband measures electroencephalogram, electromyogram, and electrooculogram. By doing so, this device determines sleep onset and stages without guessing.

To begin the process of using VirtuSOM, you should contact your physician. They’ll refer you to VirtuOx and order 1-3 nights test. Then, VirtuOx contacts you, walks you through the testing process and sends you a test kit for you to use in the comfort of your home.

Then, you should follow the instructions, carry out the test, and return the test kit along with a sleep diary. Then, your results are uploaded, scored, and interpreted by board-certified physicians. They then send recommendations back to you.

In order to manage your insomnia, VirtuSOM offers three unique programs as assistance, including:

  • Validation program – It determines whether or not you need sleep medications.
  • Titration program – Enables you to titrate your sleep medication to suit your unique needs.
  • Elimination program – Helps you eliminate the need for sleep medication and replace it with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-I).

CBT-I is a course which helps you modify your mental and physical behavior to improve your sleep. It’s one of the best treatments you can use to get rid of the sleep medications without the risk of medication dependency. This course encourages you to stop following habits and routines which compromise restorative sleep.

In fact, you can find a revolutionary online CBT-I program at VirtuOx. This program is available for free and it was created to help you overcome insomnia by using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for insomnia techniques.

This treatment will help you train both your body and mind for a great sleep. In fact, the Clinical Guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the Center for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health prefer CBT-I as the ultimate treatment for insomnia.

Many studies have shown that CBT-I has the same effect on your sleep as sleeping medications. However, this treatment helps you sleep better without being at risk of pill dependency. By embarking on the CBT-I journey, you’ll be able to learn certain techniques that help you break the cycle of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that interfere with restful sleep.CBT uses some powerful tools to improve your sleep patterns in the long run.

Types of Cardiac Arrhythmia in Children

Abnormal heartbeats, also known as cardiac arrhythmias, aren’t a condition which only affects adults. In fact, this condition can also occur in children. Hence, identifying the symptoms on time and properly treating the condition is of crucial importance. Your doctor will be able to establish your child’s risk for arrhythmia, as well as, recommend diagnostic tests for arrhythmia. Here are all the types of cardiac arrhythmia in children.

Long QT Syndrome (LQTS)

Just like all types of cardiac arrhythmias, the Long QT Syndrome is a disorder of the heart’s electrical system. This condition indicates that ventricles take too long to contract and release. The gap of time necessary for completing a cycle can be measured and compared to normal averages for children.

This cardiac arrhythmia can be either here ditary or occur as a side effect of medications. However, it’s important to note that some arrhythmias related to LQTS can cause sudden cardiac arrest and are potentially fatal.

Besides the fact that children with LQTS might not experience any symptoms, some of the most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Irregular heart rate or rhythm
  • Fainting
  • Fluttering in the chest

When it comes to the treatment for LQTS, it usually includes beta-blockers and surgical procedures such as an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).

Premature Contractions

Children can experience irregular heart rhythms due to premature or extra contractions. The premature beats that start in the atria are known as premature atrial contractions, or PACs. On the other hand, the beats which start in the ventricles are known as premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs. Hence, if your child says that their heart “skipped a beat,” it usually means that they’ve experienced a contraction.

This is a common condition in normal children and teenagers. There isn’t any special treatment for premature contractions. So, they can disappear after a while and usually aren’t cause for concern.

Tachycardia

Tachycardia is a condition in which the heart rate of your child is too fast. How the condition is defined depends on your child’s age and physical condition.

Sinus tachycardia is a normal increase in the heart rate in children. It requires no treatments and it’s usually a result of exercise, increased thyroid activity, fever, or excitement.

Supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, is the most common tachycardia in children. Other names for SVT include, atrial tachycardia, paroxysmal atrial tachycardia or paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. This condition means that the electrical signals in atria fire abnormally, which interferes with electrical impulses coming from the sinoatrial (SA) node. As a result, the child experiences a faster heart rate. This condition is also common in infants.     

This condition isn’t a life-threatening issue and treatment is only recommended when the condition persists. The most common symptoms of SVT in children include:

  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest discomfort
  • Lightheadedness
  • Upset stomach
  • Weakness

Some of the possible SVT treatment options for children are medications, ablation, or cardioversion.

Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)

This is another disorder which happens when the electrical pathways between the atria and the ventricles of the child’s heart malfunction. This allows electrical signals to reach the ventricles prematurely. Then, the electrical signals can be returned to the atria which can trigger overly fast heart rates. Children with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome can greatly benefit from medications. However, when the medications don’t help, catheter ablation and surgical procedures might be necessary.

Ventricular tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia is a fast heart rate which begins in the ventricles of the child’s heart.This is one of the rarest conditions which a child can experience and it can be quite serious. Hence, the condition requires immediate medical attention and can be the culprit for serious heart disease. In order to diagnose ventricular tachycardia, children will have to undergo specialized tests, such as an intracardiac electrophysiologic procedure. Besides medications, other treatments can be radio frequency ablation and surgery.

Bradycardia

Bradycardia means that the child’s heart rate is too slow. However, the child’s age determined what’s too slow, as well as, other factors. In newborns that usually means having a heart rate under 80 beats a minute, which in teenagers it can be low as 50 beats a minute.

Sick Sinus Syndrome

Your child heart rate is likely to slow down when the sinus node doesn’t fire its electrical signals properly. The condition is known as sick sinus syndrome and can either cause bradycardia or tachycardia in children. This condition is quite rare in children. However, children who have it either have no symptoms or might feel dizzy or tired. Treatment options include medications, an artificial pacemaker or a combination of both.

Complete Heart Block

When the heart’s electrical signals can’t pass normally from the upper chambers of the heart to the lower chambers it can cause a heart block. So, without electrical impulses from the sinoatrial node, the ventricles will still contract and pump blood, but at a slower rate than usual. This condition is usually triggered by disease or a heart muscle injury made during surgery. Additionally, congenital heart block might also be present in the womb. Treating a complete heart block usually requires an artificial pacemaker.

Hence, if your child has some kind of cardiac arrhythmias, you might want to learn to check your child’s heart rate from time to time. Additionally, it might be best if you learn how to slow their heart rate and manage the necessary medications.