Doctor holding inhaler lung problems COPD

National COPD Awareness Month 2018

Nov 2018

November is National COPD Awareness Month! Around 2% of the whole UK population are living with COPD, but many people are still unsure of what the disease actually is.

What is COPD?

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a term used to describe a group of progressive lung conditions. These lung conditions include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma.  Breathing problems related to these conditions tend to get gradually worse, however symptoms can be controlled with treatment.

Who does it affect?

COPD most commonly affects long-term smokers. Due to this, the disease can often go years undiagnosed as symptoms can often just be brushed off as a simple smoker’s problem. Letting the disease go on undiagnosed causes further, irreversible damage to your lungs, making symptoms harder to treat.

People with common lung problems such as asthma are at a greater risk of developing COPD as they get older, but this will most likely be spotted in the early stages as the sufferer will already be getting treatment for asthma. This means that the symptoms will be able to be controlled more effectively, rather than them developing worse before being spotted.

Occupational exposure to strong chemicals and dust can cause COPD, as your lungs are under constant attack from polluted air.

What are the early warning signs?

Any of these symptoms could be an early indicator of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

  • Frequent wheezing.
  • Increased breathlessness, particularly during activity.
  • Persistent cough, bringing up mucus in most days for at least three months in a period of at least two years (often disregarded as smokers cough).

What stages are there?

COPD has four stages ranging from mild to severe. In the first stage many people don’t even realise there’s an issue, whilst in the second stage they begin to notice more breathlessness and/or mucus production. At stage three COPD begins to have an impact on people’s quality of life. With breathing becoming increasingly difficult, it can be hard for people to enjoy activities and perform day-to-day tasks. At stage four breathing issues can become life threatening and people have issues receiving oxygen. With the first two stages being difficult to notice, COPD awareness

What treatments are available?

Whilst there’s no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease yet, treatment can help control symptoms and slow its progression.

If you suffer from COPD and are a smoker, the single best thing you can do is quit smoking. Although damage from smoking cannot be reversed, stopping is the most effective way to prevent any further damage and slow disease progression.

Inhalers are often given to people who have COPD and their breathing is constantly affected. Short-acting and long-acting inhalers are available based on the sufferer’s needs.

If inhalers can’t help control symptoms, medication is often prescribed. Based on the particular symptoms of the individual, medication can be given to relax and open up airways or to make phlegm thinner and easier to cough up.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is available on the NHS. This is a programme specialised to help people with lung problems. The programme includes tailored exercise, education on your condition, dietary advice and emotional support.

Creating COPD awareness has never been so important. With someone being diagnosed every 5 minutes, it’s vital we know what to look out for and to get the condition under control as soon as possible.

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