There aren’t many chronic conditions that have slipped so quietly yet firmly into the subconscious mind of Americans more than COPD, the condition also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Several years ago this obscure acronym was almost unheard of during regular discussions on health issues but now seems to dominate medical websites, health magazines and pharmaceutical advertisement. It’s become of interest for not only those at high risk, those who’ve chronically smoked for years, but is of interest for their loved ones and all other’s whose lives would be affected by having a chronically sick friend, relative or co-worker. COPD has beeped onto the radar of American life and its medical struggles. Here are a few facts about this disease that could have you feeling ready to discuss it like a champ around the water cooler at work.
COPD affects the lungs primarily but is soon felt throughout the body. In fact, it is a deterioration of lung capacity, constricting oxygen to the blood system and eventually weakening key systems in the body. The term COPD is a blanket term for any number of several chronic breathing abnormalities such as chronic bronchitis and chronic emphysema. These two lung disorders comprise the majority of COPD cases. 15% of prolong cigarette smokers will develop some form of COPD.
Though not all those who smoke will develop COPD, about 90% of all COPD cases are of those who chronically smoked for prolonged periods of time. The other 10% of those with COPD acquired the disease through prolong exposure to occupational pollutants from jobs such as mining, metal work and construction. Of those victims who have the disease, those who acquired it mainly from smoking are still more adversely affected compared to those who acquired the disease through occupational pollutants. “Smokers with COPD have higher death rates than nonsmokers with COPD,” states meicinenet.com.
COPD is diagnosed by several different means: checking the oxygen to blood ratio in the body, x-ray scans of the rib cage and lungs to see if they are inflamed and/or enlarged. Also, many patients with COPD experience frequent coughing and the choking up of a clear mucus-like substance or even blood: these experiences would be involved in a diagnosis. Some effects of having COPD are hard breathing and feeling winded even at rest. Patients some times experience blueish coloring of their lips and darkening of fingernails because of the lack of oxygen in the body.
This condition is frightening to many Americans and the fight against it starts with being aware of this disease and understanding what factors can lead one down the road to COPD. For more information check out U.S Department of Health and Human Services at www.nhlbi.nih.gov