COPD: What you need to know

Staff Writer
Glen Rose Reporter

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung disease including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

Many people mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging. In the early stages of the disease, you may not notice the symptoms. COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. You begin to see the symptoms in the more developed stages of the disease. That’s why it is important that you talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. Ask your doctor about taking a spirometry test.

Symptoms:

• Increased breathlessness

• Frequent coughing (with and without sputum)

• Wheezing

• Tightness in chest

How common is COPD?

COPD affects an estimated 24 million individuals in the U.S., and over half of them have symptoms of COPD and do not know it. Early screening can identify COPD before major loss of lung function occurs.

Risk factors for COPD

Most cases of COPD are caused by inhaling pollutants; that include smoking (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.), and second-hand smoke.

Fumes, chemicals and dust found in many work environments are contributing factors for many individuals who develop COPD.

Genetics can also play a role in an individual’s development of COPD-even if the person has never smoked or has ever been exposed to strong lung irritants in the workplace.

For more information on COPD consult with your primary care physician.