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November marks World COPD Awareness Month

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term used to describe a number of lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions make a sufferer’s airways inflame and narrow, making it difficult to breathe air in and out of the lungs. This effects how much oxygen is breathed in and how much carbon dioxide is expelled from the body; leading to fatigue, breathlessness and frequent chest infections.

With 1.2 million people in the UK diagnosed with COPD, and 25,000 deaths every year in England alone, it is no surprise that this is the second most common lung disease in the country.

Preventing COPD

COPD is a preventable disease, it usually develops due to long term damage to our lungs from breathing in harmful substances such as air pollution and cigarette smoke. People who smoke are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD than people who have never smoked.

So what can you do to avoid suffering from COPD;

  • Stop smoking

  • Avoid second-hand smoke

  • Avoid occupational exposures

  • Avoid air pollution

Signs and Symptoms

COPD is common amongst middle aged or older adults who smoke with many not realising they have COPD until the later stages of the disease. Their persistent ‘smokers cough’ or feeling breathless when active is often mistaken as a normal part of aging or from a long term smoking habit. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms;

  • Increased breathlessness, particularly when active

  • Wheezing

  • Tightness in the chest

  • Persistent chesty cough with phlegm

  • Frequent chest infections

When to talk to your doctor

  • If you are a smoker or former smoker over the age of 40

  • If you have a family history of COPD

  • If you are suffering from any of the symptoms above

  • If you have a history of exposure to second- hand smoke or have worked with chemicals or dusts that may cause damage to your lungs.

There is no known cure for COPD, and reversing the damage caused by the disease is impossible. However diagnosed early, with the right treatment and by making changes to your lifestyle, it is possible to live a normal active life.

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