- What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to several chronic lung conditions, including what was formerly known as “chronic bronchitis” and “emphysema”. COPD is characterized by breathlessness, excessive sputum production and chronic cough. This can be caused by inflammation of airway walls, overproduction of mucous, destruction of alveolar walls and reduced elasticity in the walls and alveoli. The severity of the condition can progress with age to become a cause of death. Like severe asthma, it too is under-diagnosed, however clinical symptoms such as abnormal shortness of breath and increased forced expiratory time (measured through spirometry) can be used to help with diagnosis. COPD is a debilitating condition as over half of those with the disease report that it limits their ability to do work or to carry out daily activities and chores.
- What is COPD caused by?
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Other risk factors include air pollution and proximity to industrial dusts and chemicals, a history of childhood respiratory infections, asthma, age and genetics.
COPD was estimated to affect 64 million people worldwide in 2004 and accounted for 3 million deaths in 2005 (5% of the total global deaths). The prevalence and detrimental effects of the disease combined with its under diagnosis has provoked the World Health Organization to declare it a global epidemic. Because no cure exists, treatment of COPD is targeted at managing symptoms and generally consists of bronchodilators and corticosteroids to ease breathing and antibiotics to battle lung infections. In 2009, 15.1 million Americans had been diagnosed as having COPD. It is attributed as being the fourth leading cause of death.