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4 Key Facts You Need to Know About COPD


Did you know that more than 65 million people around the world have moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?1 COPD isn’t just one disease, but rather a diagnosis which encompasses multiple conditions which can affect and cause significant damage to your airway passages and lungs. Many people gravely live with it daily though it can diminish quality of life and cause prolonged suffering. It is a leading cause of death among adults, yet people often don’t know that much about it. 

To know how to prevent, treat, or manage COPD, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the disease. Below are a couple of facts that can help you better understand this life-altering disease.

1. COPD comprises several serious respiratory conditions

A diagnosis of COPD means that the patient has multiple conditions, as COPD is not just one disease. Some of the main conditions included are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, though it’s common for most COPD patients to show symptoms of both.

All of the conditions are categorized as serious long-term breathing problems. With COPD, people will find it increasingly difficult to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide as there’s progressive damage to the lungs and airways. The struggle to breathe becomes more severe over time and can have a terrible effect on your quality of life.

The damage that COPD could inflict in your respiratory system include:

  • Mucus clogging the airway passages
  • Air sacs in your lungs deteriorating
  • Narrowed and inflamed bronchial tubes

Symptoms could include:

  • A persistent cough
  • A large amount of mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Increased number of respiratory infections
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
  • Unexplained/ unintended weight loss

2. COPD worsens over time

Sadly, there is still no cure for COPD. The progressive disease will worsen with time and its impact on your lifespan can be controlled with a combination of treatments.

Medical and scientific experts are constantly working on new treatments which can significantly slow down the progression of COPD, control its symptoms, and alleviate the pain it may cause. Lifestyle changes can also make a significant impact on quality of life. The treatment(s) that work best are dependent on each individual’s condition and factors, as well as the severity of COPD when diagnosed and the presence of other medical conditions. Treatments include:

  • Various medications
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • A personalized regimen of exercise, nutrition, counseling, and other interventions
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Avoiding exposure to highly polluted environments

3. COPD affects millions of Americans

In 2016, COPD was the third leading cause of death in the United States and accounted for around three million deaths that year.2 More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with it in the nation alone, and it’s horrifying, but there are millions more who may have the disease and not even know it.

The state with the highest prevalence of COPD, according to a study conducted in 2015, was West Virginia with a whopping 12% of adults (aged 18 or older) being diagnosed with the disease. On the other hand, Utah had the lowest prevalence rate at only 3.8%.3

Rates of COPD are higher among certain demographics; American Indians and Alaskan natives make up for 11% of those diagnosed while Hispanics are only at 3%.4

4. COPD increases the risk of other health problems

Being diagnosed with COPD means that there is an increased risk of getting other respiratory diseases such as lung cancer. It can also increase the complications of otherwise commonly cured health issues such as flu viruses, colds, pneumonia, and respiratory infections.

As if the difficulty to breathe was not enough, patients with COPD also have a greater chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and pulmonary hypertension.

Though smoking is one of the main causes of COPD, the disease can also infect people who have never had a cigarette in their life but were instead exposed to pollutants in the air such as fumes, dust, and airborne chemicals for an extended period of time. Various genetic factors can also influence whether or not a person may develop COPD.

It is important to remember that the earlier you are diagnosed, the better your chances are of controlling this debilitating disease. If you find yourself with one or more of these symptoms, speak to your medical care professional immediately.



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Sergio Cruz

Head Writer

Sergio has been writing for online blogs and news sites for almost 10 years! There isn't a topic he hasn't written about. When he's not busy researching and writing articles, Sergio likes to spend his time traveling and playing guitar.