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“It’s not too late” to get help for COPD

A Calderdale GP is urging local people to look out for the symptoms of a lung disease as part of a global awareness day – as many people in the area have yet to be diagnosed.

The illness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, causing more than three million deaths every year, and up to half of people with the disease don’t know they have it. 

Dr Nigel Taylor said the early stages of COPD are often unrecognised, partly because many individuals discount the symptoms, such as breathlessness, chronic cough, and bringing up phlegm, as a normal part of getting older or an expected consequence of cigarette smoking.

World COPD Day is held each November to raise awareness of COPD worldwide. This year’s World COPD Day theme, “It’s not too late,” emphasizes the steps people can take to improve their respiratory health, at any stage before or after a COPD diagnosis.

Dr Taylor, who is a member of NHS Calderdale CCG Governing Body said: “The two most important parts of treatment are to stop smoking and to encourage physical activity.  At all stages of the disease there are treatments available to reduce the symptoms of breathlessness.

“We know there are many people out there who remain undiagnosed and GPs across Calderdale are actively trying to find them. Our CCG is also keen to encourage those with COPD to engage with our pulmonary rehabilitation service and our stop smoking support services. ”

COPD is diagnosed using a breathing test called spirometry. This test, which is painless and takes only a few minutes, measures the amount of air a person can breathe out, and the amount of time taken to do so. Researchers are also studying additional ways to identify COPD earlier in the course of disease.

COPD occurs most often in patients who are over age 40 and who have a history of exposure to COPD risk factors. Worldwide, the most commonly encountered risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking.  Other important risk factors include dusts and chemicals encountered on the job and smoke from biomass fuels (such as coal, wood, and animal dung) burned for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated dwellings, especially in developing countries.

Patients may be able to slow the progress of COPD by reducing their exposure to risk factors for the disease. Without treatment, however, COPD is generally a progressive disease, and as the disease gets worse patients become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking the dog, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning.


Notes to editors:

  • World COPD Day was first held in 2002, and has grown each year to become one of the most important COPD events globally. Further information can be found at www.goldcopd.org.
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