COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, which is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma.1 COPD is currently an incurable, progressive disease that causes increasing breathlessness; but it can be managed with the right diagnosis and treatment.
November is COPD Awareness Month, and it’s designed to bring attention to this disease, to help educate others, and to rally behind and support those who live with it every day.
Signs and symptoms
According to the COPD Foundation2, symptoms of COPD can be different for each person, but common signs of the disease are:
- Increased shortness of breath
- Frequent coughing (with and without mucus)
- Increased breathlessness
- Tightness in the chest
You may think that coughing and shortness of breath are just ordinary signs of aging, but if you notice these or any unusual new symptoms, you should talk to your doctor right away.
If you have a history of smoking or have had long-term exposure to air pollutants (including pollution and second-hand smoke), or you have chronic coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath that has become worse over time; or you can’t keep up with people your own age, you should be tested for COPD.
As with many diseases, genetics can play a role in COPD, but most cases are caused by inhaling pollutants including tobacco smoke and second-hand smoke. Smokers inhale more than 4,000 chemicals with each puff, 40 of which are known to cause cancer.3 Tobacco smoke can overwhelm the natural defenses our lungs have, making it difficult for them to defend against the irritation and inflammation caused by smoke. This leads to COPD.
Fumes, chemicals and dust found in many work environments can also contribute to the onset of the disease.
Treatment for COPD can include medication, oxygen therapy, and in some cases, surgery. It’s important to seek treatment because while there is no cure, the options available to you can ease your symptoms, prevent complications and slow the progression of the disease.
If you have been diagnosed with COPD, it’s very important to follow your doctor’s advice and maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious food, exercising (based on your doctor’s recommendations), quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke and other pollutants.
As with any disease, early intervention is important to help you live longer and healthier with COPD. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about any worrisome symptoms you or a loved one may have.
417410E CAN/US (11/19)