November is National COPD Awareness Month to raise awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), more than 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. However, there are also millions more who do not even know they have it. This is unfortunate because, while there is no cure, it can be treated. The earlier it is properly treated, the sooner it can improve quality of life by helping people to breathe better.
Reach-out to the Millions who do not Know they Have COPD
During this month of November, the COPD Foundation and other respiratory health organizations will come together to raise awareness of COPD. They will spread the word about the signs and symptoms of COPD so that it can be recognized and treated. They will try to reach out to the millions who do not know they have it. Many people with undiagnosed COPD think their symptoms are just a normal part of aging. People who have suffered all their lives from asthma may not realize that the asthma has progressed to COPD. Smokers tend to ignore worsening of their symptoms as simply “smoker’s cough.” To learn more about a simply way to diagnose COPD see our blog post from March 28, 2019.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic serious lung disease that damages the lungs and makes breathing difficult. It really is an umbrella for two kinds of lung diseases: Chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The cause is usually from cigarette smoke. In fact, it is estimated that 20-30% of heavy smokers will get COPD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking accounts for as many as 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. Also, 38% of the nearly 16 million American adults diagnosed with COPD report being current smokers. COPD can also be caused by breathing in second-hand smoke and all kinds of fine particles of polluted air. In some countries where people use open fires for cooking and heating they can also develop COPD.
COPD can begin years before it reaches this stage of breathlessness. This is why it is so important for COPD to be diagnosed early when it can be treated.
Signs and Symptoms of COPD
Here are the signs and symptoms of COPD and unfortunately too many people ignore them or do not take them seriously:
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic coughing
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
- Blue-colored lips or finger nail beds from a lack of oxygen (cyanosis)
- Tendency to catch a lot of colds, flu and other lung infections like pneumonia
- Fatigue from struggling to breathe and a lack of oxygen
- Swelling in feet, legs and ankles
Learn More Breathe Better (LMBB)
That National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsor a health educational program called Learn More Breathe Better (LMBB). This LMBB program provides health information about lung diseases to the following:
- People who show signs and symptoms of lung diseases and respiratory conditions
- People at high risk for lung diseases such as current and past smokers
- People with certain genes that make them susceptible to lung diseases
- People who are exposed to dust, chemicals and other lung irritants
- People and children with asthma
- Health professionals who diagnose and treat lung diseases
- Organizations who want educational information about lung health
LMBB works by:
- Increasing awareness of the prevention, treatment and management of respiratory lung diseases like COPD and asthma.
- Increasing recognition of the signs and symptoms of lung diseases so that they can be detected early and treated
- Supporting the advancement and the carrying out of evidence-based care. This is the best treatment for a medical condition according to the best research and evidence.
Breathe Better Network
The Breathe Better Network is made up of organizations around the country who partner together to raise awareness of lung diseases in their communities.
Many People with COPD may Need Long-term Skilled Nursing Care
Since COPD is a progressive disease, the day may come when your loved one needs long-term skilled nursing care. You should choose a facility like the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York that offers a respiratory wellness program. Respiratory wellness at Van Duyn is managed by professional respiratory therapists.
Van Duyn also has wonderful recreational therapy programs. See our blog post from May 17, 2019 about how group singing can help people with COPD. Also the air in Syracuse has been rated by the American Lung Association for being among the cleanest cities in America for fine particle air pollution:
- Ranked 122 for high ozone days out of 227 metropolitan areas
- Tied for 1st place for cleanest metropolitan areas in the country for 24-hour particle pollution
- Ranked 174 for annual particle pollution out of 187 metropolitan areas
If you or your loved ones are showing signs that could be COPD, consult your doctor and do the simple breathing test. Do not wait until COPD advances to a state where you are always struggling to breathe, but get tested and treated.