World COPD Day was held on the 16th of November. This is to raise awareness of COPD. This year’s theme was ‘Your lungs for life’, highlighting the importance of lifetime lung health. But what is COPD?
COPD is an acronym for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. Under this umbrella term, we have emphysema which damages the alveoli responsible for gas exchange, and chronic bronchitis which causes long-term inflammation of the airways.
COPD is characterised by breathlessness, chest infections, a chesty cough, and wheezing.
The main cause of COPD is smoking. This causes the lungs to become damaged, inflamed, and narrowed, causing COPD to set in. COPD can also be due to long-term exposure to fumes or dust.
2 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with COPD but it is thought that up to three times as many people have not yet been formally diagnosed. Up to 30000 people die from COPD every year. COPD is the second most common lung condition in the UK after asthma with 2% of the whole UK population living with the disease. These numbers are rising every year hence the importance of an awareness day about how debilitating this condition is. COPD gradually worsens over time as there is no cure. However, it is preventable and there are treatments available to help combat the side effects.
Most cases of COPD are potentially preventable by lessening your exposure to smoking and other pollutants such as hazardous fumes. Inhalers and medication can help to make breathing easier and pulmonary rehabilitation helps to improve lung health.
COPD can become very dangerous. Damaged lungs can be very susceptible to infection. The next cold or bout of pneumonia can lead to someone with COPD’s demise.
So please take care of your lungs, they are one of the last structures to fully develop before we are born!
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