Learn The Facts About COPD

November is National Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month and Harbin Clinic wants to make sure our patients know the facts about this widespread and dangerous disease.

What is COPD?

COPD is a serious lung disease that, over time, makes it hard to breathe. Its official name is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, but COPD has other names, like emphysema or chronic bronchitis. In those who have COPD, the airways, or tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs are partly blocked, making it difficult to breathe.

COPD’s Symptoms

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 120,000 American lives each year. More than 12 million have been diagnosed, but another 12 million are likely to have COPD and don't know it.

People with one or more of these symptoms could have COPD.

  • Experiencing shortness of breath while doing everyday activities that are normally done with ease
  • Producing excess sputum
  • Coughing frequently, or constantly
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling like you can't breathe
  • Unable to take a deep breath

As we age, it's easy to think that some of the symptoms of COPD are just part of getting older. But they're not. If you think you have even mild symptoms, tell your doctor or health care provider as soon as possible.

COPD Risk Factors

If you used to smoke or still do, you are at risk. COPD most often occurs in people age 40 and over who are current or former smokers. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD, accounting for as many as nine out of 10 COPD-related deaths. However, as many as one out of six people who have COPD never smoked.

Anyone who has had exposure to lung irritants like certain chemicals, dust or fumes in the workplace, are at risk too. Heavy or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or other air pollutants may also contribute to COPD.

As many as 100,000 Americans have alpha-1 antitrypsin, or AAT deficiency. They can get COPD even if they have never smoked or had long-term exposure to harmful pollutants.

Steps To Take If You’re At Risk

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants
  • Visit your doctor or health care provider regularly
  • Protect yourself from the flu

Get A Spirometry Test

Spirometry is a common, noninvasive lung function test that can detect COPD before symptoms become severe. It will indicate the severity of COPD and can help determine the best course of treatment.

For more information visit COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov. You can also make an important with a Harbin Clinic physician by calling 888.427.2461