Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious pulmonary disease. It is the fourth leading cause of death in USA and affects more than 12 millions Americans. COPD refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it increasingly difficult for whom is affected to breathe.
As Dr. Tashkin published (N Engl J Med 2010; 363:1183-1184) “COPD is a partially reversible disorder characterized by progressive airflow obstruction, the course of which is punctuated of acute symptomatic worsening (exacerbations) of variable severity and frequency. Exacerbations have an important effect on both the patient and society, including worsening health status and increased risks of hospitalization — with its attendant costs — and death. Because of these negative consequences, prevention of exacerbations is recommended as a key goal of COPD management”. Hurst et Al.(N Engl J Med 2010; Sept. 16, 2010) studied for three years frequency and associations of exacerbation in 2138 patients. They found that exacerbations became more frequent and more severe as the severity of COPD increased.
This serious illness includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. One of the main causes seems to be the long-term cigarette smoking but also other factors affect this pulmonary condition: cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution. Also gastroesophageal reflux disease can aggravate COPD and may cause it in some people.
The early symptoms of COPD include coughing in the morning, wheezing and shortness of breath with activity. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include increased shortness of breath, choking sensation when lying flat, fatigue, trouble concentrating, breathing through pursed lips and others.
The doctor will ask about medical history and symptoms. A physical exam and some tests as chest x-ray, lung function tests and blood tests will be done.
If you want learn more you can contact the American Lung Association and the National Lung Health Education Program.