Know Enough About COPD?

COPD risks and symptoms awareness has increased

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You can call it Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD but no matter, it's a true killer. While COPD's profile has risen recently, a new study says not enough people know the risks or symptoms of COPD.

According to a new survey, COPD awareness has increased especially in those who are most at risk of getting the disease. Unfortunately, not enough of these high risk individuals tell their doctors about their symptoms. This new study can help doctors look for symptoms but can also promote COPD education in individuals.

"If you smoke or smoked in the past, ask your doctor about COPD."

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), COPD is the third leading cause of death in America. The NHLBI believes close to 24 million Americans may have COPD but even more alarming is that half of these cases may be undiagnosed. While awareness has been raised, more action is needed to help patients get diagnosed and receive proper treatment.

In the new NHLBI survey, 71 percent of adults who answered the survey knew about COPD. This was a six percent increase from 2008. Among high risk adults such as current smokers, 78 percent were aware of COPD. The awareness for former smokers was at 76 percent. Despite this awareness, it is not enough to know that it exists says James P. Kiley, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases.

Dr. Kiley calls for more education which can lead to earlier treatment and better management of COPD. There is already a high awareness of COPD among high risk individuals and that means they may be more receptive to being educated about risks and symptoms.

Smoking, genetic factors and lung irritants are common causes of COPD. COPD is not difficult to diagnose and patients can be diagnosed with a simple breathing test in a doctor's office.

Symptoms like chronic coughing or shortness of breath may be shrugged off as a nuisance but if adults are properly educated, they may communicate those symptoms to a doctor. Dr. Kiley says many patients lose close to half of their lung function before coming in and being treated for COPD.

If a patient is diagnosed with COPD early on, it can lead to a longer life. Future studies can look at effective ways to educate individuals on risks and symptoms of COPD. Increased awareness of COPD has been a home run, but there needs to be an increase in the number of educated individuals, and furthermore, an increase in patient communication with doctors about the symptoms of COPD.

This study was published by the National Institutes of Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 23, 2011
Last Updated:
November 27, 2011