Parkridge Health System - November 29, 2019

November is recognized as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month.

Did you know that millions of people living in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD? And there are even more Americans living with the disease who haven't been diagnosed.

During November, it is time to get in the know about COPD and the steps you can take to reduce your risk of being diagnosed with this disease.

What is COPD?

COPD is defined as a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe. These lung diseases include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and refractory (non-reversible) asthma.

Risk factors for COPD include:

  • Exposure to tobacco smoke, especially if you are a smoker
  • Asthma
  • Occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals
  • Exposure to fumes from burning fuel
  • Advanced age
  • Genetics

What are the symptoms of COPD?

If you're affected by COPD, you may experience many different lung-related symptoms, including:

  • Dry cough
  • Coughing with phlegm that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to exercise
  • Chest pressure
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities

Can COPD be prevented?

Since smoking is the leading cause of COPD, not smoking—or quitting if you already smoke—is the biggest step you can take to protect your health. In fact, it's important to quit even if you've already been diagnosed with COPD, since smoking is a trigger for flare-ups.

Other lung irritants can also cause COPD, so it is important to try and avoid irritants like air pollution, chemical fumes, dusts and secondhand smoke.

If you're diagnosed with COPD, treatment options are available. While there is no cure, there are many therapies that can help alleviate symptoms and lower the risk of complications.

A medical emergency can strike at any time. Don't hesitate to visit our emergency room at Parkridge Medical Center when the need arises. Our medical professionals are ready and waiting to handle any medical situation.