COPD Awareness Month

By November 10, 2014Archives

November is the official month to bring attention to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD. Much of the time COPD is a preventable as well as a treatable condition; however, there needs to be more education about it within the public realm. The American Lung Association website is a good place to start and provides a wealth of crucial information.

COPD Prevalence
12.7 million American citizens, who were aged 18 and older, were diagnosed as having COPD in 2011. It was said that 24 million showed evidence of lung function impairment which has led the medical community to believe that COPD had been greatly under diagnosed. As of 2013, COPD was stated as being the fourth most common cause of death within the United States.

The prevalence of COPD in the elderly, those aged 65 and up, was about 14.7% in 2013 as opposed to those aged 40 to 65 which is just below 10%. Women fall victim to this illness more often than men. In 2010 more than 70,000 women died from complications relating to COPD, while the number for men was greater than 64,000.

Causes of COPD
Smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products remains the most common cause of COPD. This also applies to second hand exposure as well as past exposure. Those who no longer smoke still have an extremely high risk of developing COPD.

Air pollutants are another common cause of COPD. This can be at home from cooking or cleaning in homes with poor ventilation. Exposure may be at work in industrial settings such as factories. Any breathing irritant that is inhaled for prolonged durations can dramatically increase the risk for COPD.

There is a hereditary disease known as alpha-1-antitrypsin that can result in the development of COPD. This genetic condition is sometimes referred to as ATT deficiency. Individuals with ATT deficiency are unable to produce a specific protein that provides protection for the lungs. This cause is much rarer than smoking or air pollutants.

Symptoms of COPD
The symptoms of COPD do not usually present until there is significant damage within the lungs. These symptoms generally exacerbate over time. A sign of chronic bronchitis, which falls under the umbrella term COPD, is a persistent cough which continues three months out of the year for two or more consecutive years. Emphysema is another breathing disorder which falls into the category of COPD. Some other signs that may present are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • A need to clear mucus from the throat upon rising
  • Bluish tint to lips and fingernail beds
  • Reoccurring respiratory infections
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

COPD Treatments
There is currently no cure for COPD; however, there are a number of methods to relieve the symptoms associated with it. These can improve both the quantitative and qualitative values of patients’ lives.

  • The first goal is to stop smoking and take steps to prevent second hand smoke.
  • Medical professionals sometimes encourage specific breathing exercises designed to strengthen the lungs.
  • Pharmaceutical medications are often required which assist in opening air passages; decrease inflammation in this area; and combat bacterial infections.
  • Oxygen treatments may be required for severe cases of COPD.
  • Surgery is another treatment option for extremely severe cases of this breathing disorder. This may involve removal of distended air sacs; removal of damaged lung tissue; or lung transplant.

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