November is COPD Awareness Month

November 19, 2018

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The disease is increasingly common, affecting millions of Americans, and is the third leading cause of disease-related deaths in the U.S.   Currently there are more than 16 million people who have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more who have the disease and don’t know it. However, the good news is COPD is often preventable and treatable.

Symptoms include:

  • Chronic cough (also known as smoker’s cough)
  • Chronic phlegm production
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
  • Not being able to take a deep breath
  • Wheezing
  • Blueness of lips or fingernail beds
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy

The most essential step in any treatment plan for COPD is to stop smoking.  According to the CDC, smoking is linked to up to 90 percent of all COPD deaths in the United States. Women are 37 percent more likely to have COPD than men.  If you are a smoker, stop smoking. Quitting isn’t easy but 50 million ex-smokers in the United States are proof that it’s possible. Although tobacco use is the primary cause of COPD, air pollutants at home (such as secondhand smoke and some heating fuels) and at work (such as dusts, gases, and fumes), and a genetic predisposition can also cause COPD.

Treatment can often successfully manage symptoms of COPD, but it’s a serious condition.

Current treatments for COPD cannot repair the damage to your lungs, but you can slow down the destruction and manage the disease.  This makes it easier for you to breathe and feel better. Symptoms of COPD are generally treated with bronchodilators, like albuterol, that relax airway muscles. During flare-ups, inhaled corticosteroids can reduce inflammation and decrease mucus production. Oxygen therapy can help, as can antibiotics to fight respiratory infections.

November is COPD Awareness month – a great time to remind yourself that it is possible to have control over your breathing – and your life – with COPD. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, please schedule an appointment with your Primary Care Provider or visit our website to find a top Memorial Healthcare physician who is ready to partner with you in your healthcare.