Chronic coughing and wheezing. Frequent shortness of breath. Struggling for air. These are some of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects 24 million Americans (or approximately one in five adults over the age of 45). As many as half of them don’t realize they have COPD, however, as many people mistake their slowly worsening symptoms as normal aging or a lack of fitness.
November is National COPD Awareness Month, and the COPD Learn More Breathe Better® campaign, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, aims to raise awareness about this under-diagnosed condition. With a growing prevalence in the US, COPD – which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis – is now the third leading cause of death in the US as well as a significant cause of long-term disability.
While COPD can have environmental or genetic risk factors that lead to its development in non-smokers, the disease most often occurs in people age 40 and over with a history of smoking (either current or former smokers). Smoking is the most common cause of COPD, accounting for as many as 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. Thus, quitting smoking now can reduce your risk. (Worried about your ability to quit? Read our recent Great American Smokeout blog for motivation, resources and support.)
If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, connecting with other patients like you can help you learn how to live better with the condition. 331 patients report COPD at PatientsLikeMe, with 44 listing it as their primary condition. Some of the common treatments they report include Budesonide, Fluticasone, Prednisone and Oxygen Therapy. (Click on each name to see the treatment evaluations submitted by our patients, who share their experiences with effectiveness, side effects, cost and more.)
Not sure if your breathing problems might be COPD? See your doctor for a simple breathing test known as spirometry. The earlier you get diagnosed and treated, the sooner you can begin to breathe a little easier.