World COPD Day Nov. 16—‘Breathless not Helpless’

GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) annouonces that today, Nov. 16, is World COPD Day, to increase awareness about COPD and to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a disease state characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. The airflow limitation is usually both progressive and associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases. The most important risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. This devastating, life-threatening chronic lung disease may affect one in 10 adults older than 40 worldwide, and kills nearly 3 million people per year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death worldwide (after coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and acute respiratory infection), sharing the fourth place with HIV/AIDS.

COPD affects mainly smokers older than 40, but inhalation of smoke from biomass fuels, used for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated dwellings, especially in developing countries, is also a risk factor. The first symptoms of COPD are cough, sputum production and breathlessness during exercise. The disease is progressive, and without treatment, patients will be dramatically restricted in daily activities such as walking up a short flight of stairs, walking the dog, shopping, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning. Toward the end of the disease, total personal disability is the result, and patients require intense care (oxygen therapy, etc.). COPD also imposes a dramatic economic burden: In 2002, the medical costs from COPD in the U.S. were estimated at some $32.1 billion.

“With World COPD Day 2005 and its related activities, we want to raise awareness of this disease and encourage people who show the first signs of COPD to go to their doctor and ask for a proper diagnosis, and if necessary for treatment,” says Professor Dr. Leonardo Fabbri, of Modena, Italy, chairman of the GOLD Executive Committee. “GOLD is an initiative to globally increase knowlege of COPD, its diagnosis, reducing risk factors, and its treatment. There is treatment for this disease,” Professor Fabbri continues, “so patients may be breathless, but not helpless!”—this year’s World COPD Day theme.

Colleen Felts, RN, BS, AE-C, of Rockford COPD Coalition, said, “COPD is a lung disease that affects over 14 million people in the United States and 50 million poeple around the world. It’s the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. It’s the only leading cause of death in the U.S. that continues to increase in numbers. It’s because of smoking.”

From the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue

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