Weekly Clinical Service Dose: November is COPD Awareness Month
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), an estimated 15 million Americans suffer from COPD, and several additional millions likely have COPD and don’t even know it. Early diagnosis and treatment can help people with COPD improve their quality of life and health.
1: Know the basics
COPD—Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease—permanently damages the airways and air sacs in the lungs. They lose elasticity and cannot “bounce back” into shape after each breath inhaled stretches them to fill with air. The airways can also become swollen or thicker than normal and become blocked or obstructed by increased mucus, making it even harder to exhale.
2: Get some background
COPD most often occurs in people age 40+ who: Are or were smokers. While smoking is the most common cause, as many as one in six people with COPD never smoked. Have had long-term exposure to lung irritants, such as certain workplace chemicals, dust or fumes, as well as to air pollutants, like secondhand smoke.
3: Notice signs and symptoms
COPD comes on gradually and worsens over many years. People get so used to living with COPD, they aren’t always aware of their symptoms and how the disease limits their quality of life and ability to do things.
- Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities, such as light housework, taking a walk or even getting dressed
- Excess sputum
- Feeling unable to breathe
- Not able to take a deep breath
- Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough” Wheezing
4.Start the conversation
As soon as you notice signs and symptoms, make an appointment with a health care provider. If you notice signs and symptoms in a loved one, remind them that the sooner COPD is diagnosed, the better they’ll be able to breathe and live. And offer to go along to the doctor’s visit.
5: Make the most of a doctor’s visit.
If you’re the patient or a loved one:
Before the appointment, make a list of all breathing symptoms, as well as activities no longer possible because of shortness of breath.
Share these with your doctor:
- Bring a list of all medications currently being taken.
- Encourage a dialogue about all symptoms.