A Breath of Fresh Air for COPD Awareness

COPD Awareness Month celebrated in November

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale - most people don't even think about this constant action. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are usually very aware of the crucial act of breathing, and this month, the general public is being urged to become more aware as well.

COPD Awareness Month is being celebrated in November across the US.

Organizers are calling for increased awareness of risk factors for the disease and of steps the public can take to protect their lungs.

"Seek medical guidance if you're struggling to quit smoking."

The term COPD describes a number of conditions that lead to troubles with breathing and lung function, the Mayo Clinic reported. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common of these conditions, and tobacco smoking is the leading cause of COPD.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), COPD causes more than 120,000 deaths in the US each year - making it the third leading cause of death, which results in approximately one death every four minutes.

"More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD and an additional 12 million likely have the disease and don’t even know it," NHLBI reported. 

So who are these 12 million potential patients at risk for the disease? According to NHLBI, there are several key risk factors for COPD, including being either a former or current smoker over the age of 40.

People who worked or lived around chemicals or fumes may also be more likely to develop the disease, along with those who have a chronic cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing during tasks like climbing stairs or grocery shopping.

Other symptoms of the condition include wheezing, chest tightness, lack of energy and a chronic cough with sputum, or mucus, the Mayo Clinic reported.

For those who are at risk for COPD or concerned about possible symptoms, NHLBI suggested avoiding pollutants, fumes and cigarette smoke. These people should also talk to their doctor about breathing concerns and get a breathing test to check lung function, called spirometry.

"Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms become severe," explained NHLBI. "It is a simple, noninvasive breathing test that measures the amount of air a person can blow out of the lungs (volume) and how fast he or she can blow it out (flow)."

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of treatment options if a diagnosis of COPD is found. Treatments can include medications, help with smoking cessation, and lung therapy. NHLBI reported that other options like physical activity training and lifestyle changes may also be useful in treating COPD.

COPD Awareness Month is celebrated annually in November. Organizers include the US COPD Coalition and NHLBI.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 5, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013