World COPD Day Raises Awareness of Common and Devastating Lung Disease

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb., – November 15: Today is the fifth annual World COPD Day, an event held on the third Wednesday of November to raise awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worldwide. Since it was first held in 2002, World COPD Day has grown each year to become one of the most important COPD events globally.

COPD is a devastating lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, on par with HIV/AIDS. More than three million people die from the disease each year and up to 10 percent of adults over age 40 worldwide may have it.

Early symptoms of COPD include coughing, bringing up phlegm and getting out of breath during exercise or exertion. Without treatment, COPD is generally a progressive disease, and as the disease gets worse patients become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking the dog or even getting dressed in the morning.

“The shortness of breath that may occur with COPD can severely limit a person's participation in activities with friends and family,” Sue Martin, MS, RN, CS, FNP, Regional West Medical Center clinical nurse specialist, said.

People with COPD struggle to cough up the over-abundance of mucous they create, said Martin. “They cough and cough never fully clearing their airways.” In many patients, germs develop in the mucous that eventually lead to pneumonia and bronchitis.

A simple, painless breathing test called spirometry can confirm whether a person has COPD. During this test, a patient breathes hard into a large hose connected to a machine called a spirometer. When the patient breathes out, the spirometer measures how much air the lungs can hold and how fast the patient can blow air out of the lungs after taking a deep breath. Spirometry is the most sensitive and commonly used test of lung functions. It can detect COPD long before significant symptoms develop.

Worldwide, the most commonly encountered risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. Other important risk factors include dusts and chemicals encountered on the job and smoke from biomass fuels (such as coal, wood and animal dung) burned for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated dwellings, especially in developing countries.

“The important thing to note is that COPD can be managed very effectively in most of the population,” said Martin. “People who actively work with their healthcare provider to control the symptoms of the disease feel better and live longer. Really living with a chronic disease is possible.”

Martin points to learning how nutrition, exercise, regular use of medications as prescribed and avoidance of situations and behaviors that worsen disease symptoms can arm an individual with the tools needed to live well everyday.

“ Chronic diseases are not cured, but they are controlled with the right attitude,” said Martin.

Regional West Health Services, with over 1,300 employees, provides comprehensive and innovative health care services for the people and communities of western Nebraska and the neighboring states of Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. With over 110 active physicians, 95 percent of whom are board certified or board eligible, plus an additional 25 consulting specialists, we offer care that spans more than 40 medical specialties. Regional West Medical Center, a subsidiary of Regional West Health Services, is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and is one of only three Level II Trauma Centers in the state of Nebraska.