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Welcome to the COPD Health Channel by eMedTV. COPD, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a disease in which the lung is damaged, making it extremely difficult for the patient to breathe. In the U.S., COPD typically includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of the disease, as well as breathing in other kinds of lung irritants, such as pollution, dust, or chemicals. COPD is a leading cause of death, illness, and disability in the United States.
Statistics Relating to COPD
In the U.S., an estimated 10 million adults were diagnosed with COPD in 2000, but data from a national health survey suggests that as many as 24 million Americans were affected. The death and hospitalization rates for women with COPD were also much higher than for the men who were affected. However, COPD statistics also indicate that the proportion of the U.S. population with mild or moderate COPD has declined over the past quarter century.
Common Symptoms of COPD
COPD symptoms typically include cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. People with COPD often have symptoms that suddenly get worse. The severity of a person's symptoms depends on how much of the lung has been destroyed. If you continue to smoke, the lung destruction occurs more rapidly than if you stop smoking. If COPD symptoms become worse, be sure to contact your physician as soon as possible.
Three steps are generally required in order to make a COPD diagnosis: a medical history, a physical exam, and certain breathing tests. Based on these tests, your doctor can determine if you have COPD and how severe it is. Other common tests used to rule out other causes of symptoms and to confirm a COPD diagnosis may include chest x-rays and bronchodilator reversibility testing.
There are 4 different COPD stages: at risk, mild COPD, moderate COPD, and severe COPD. In order to determine which stage of COPD a patient is in, the doctor will use a breathing test called spirometry. Spirometry is the most sensitive and common test of lung functions and can detect COPD long before you have significant symptoms.
Treatment Options for COPD
Treatment goals are focused on relieving symptoms, improving exercise tolerance, and improving your overall health. One of the most effective ways to reduce the risks of developing COPD (and slow the progress of the disease) is to quit smoking. Although COPD cannot be cured, seeking proper COPD treatment as soon as possible can help slow the progression of the disease.
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