“Learn More, Breathe Better”: Diagnosing, Treating COPD
As National COPD Awareness Month, November is the ideal time to take a few minutes to learn more about this debilitating condition. Recognizing symptoms, like a constant cough and shortness of breath doing everyday activities, is a step toward getting medical care that either diagnoses chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory conditions or rules them out.
An estimated 16 million Americans struggle to breathe because of COPD. Millions more people have the disease but don’t know it yet.
The first step toward diagnosis and treatment is an awareness of what COPD is and isn’t. As with many health conditions, it may be misunderstood. The following facts come from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- COPD results from damage to the airways, blocking airflow and making it hard to breathe. The condition may cause coughing that produces mucus, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. The symptoms may get worse over time.
- COPD may be known to patients as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. It includes both conditions.
- A full one-quarter of COPD patients have never smoked, though cigarette smoking is the leading cause of the disease.
- COPD is the third most common cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of death.
- It’s more common in women than men.
- This serious lung condition affects one in eight Americans ages 45 and older.
- Complications include respiratory infections, heart problems, and lung cancer.
COPD is the third most common cause of disability and fourth leading cause of death.-National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
The best cause of action is awareness and prevention, including ending exposure to cigarette smoke and getting flu and pneumonia vaccinations to prevent infection, according to medical experts.
The next best step is early diagnosis and treatment. If that occurs, the lung damage may be reversible, according to the COPD Foundation, which offers steps on how to look and listen for and take action on COPD.
Medtech is a key part of that action. Those with COPD symptoms can get a diagnosis through spirometry, a simple, non-invasive test measuring lung function; a chest X-ray; a chest CT scan; and blood and laboratory tests to measure lung function or rule out other causes of symptoms.
Those with a diagnosis may receive treatment involving medtech such as non-invasive ventilation through a device involving a mask or mouthpiece. A device might be connected to remote monitoring, allowing doctors to act on incoming data to treat the patient. Devices might be portable for travel.
Taking on COPD requires all of us, working together and innovating solutions. Medtech is at the forefront of offering answers, peace of mind, and comfort to COPD patients.
- For more on COPD and how to get involved — as a patient, family member, advocate or policymaker — see the National Action Plan from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- Also see the “Learn More Breathe Better” collection of assets, including social media graphics to share for awareness, and “A Quick Guide on COPD.”
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