COPD Awareness Check



lungsNovember is COPD Awareness Month. In addition, World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day was observed last November 18.

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Doesn’t ring a bell? What about “chronic bronchitis” or “smoker’s cough”?

About 210 million people worldwide suffer from COPD. It is a leading cause of death worldwide and is expected to rank as the 3rd leading mortality cause by 20230. COPD is not a cancer per se but it increases the risk for lung cancer as well as other chronic diseases.

Definitions

Let’s take a look at what the experts say about COPD. According to the World health Organization (WHO):

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease characterized by chronic obstruction of lung airflow that interferes with normal breathing and is not fully reversible. The more familiar terms ‘chronic bronchitis’ and ‘emphysema’ are no longer used, but are now included within the COPD diagnosis. COPD is not simply a “smoker’s cough” but an under-diagnosed, life-threatening lung disease.

According the Mayo Clinic staff:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it increasingly difficult for you to breathe. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main conditions that make up COPD, but COPD can also refer to damage caused by chronic asthmatic bronchitis. In all cases, damage to your airways eventually interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs.

Causes

Most cases of COPD are caused by long-term smoking. It can also be caused by long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or environmental pollutants such as toxic fumes, dust, and chemicals. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also worsen COPD. A rare genetic disorder that results in low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin can also cause COPD.

Signs and symptoms

Emphysema symptoms will include

Chronic bronchitis symptoms are

  • A chronic cough that produces excessive amounts of sputum, usually yellowish in color
  • Frequent respiratory infection
  • Tendency to clear throat in the mornings
  • Breathlessness or shortness of breath
  • Asthma or bronchospasm in case of chronic asthmatic bronchitis

Prevention

Don’t start smoking. If you are a smoker, quit as soon as possible. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and other environmental pollutants.

Complications

COPD can lead to the following conditions:

  • Respiratory infections, including pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Heart problems
  • Depression

Resources for COPD

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD)

WHO COPD Fact Sheet

US COPD Coalition

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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