Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is only one of a group of closely related chronic lung diseases. It is estimated that 24 million people in the U.S. have COPD, though only about half are diagnosed.
As Clinical Director for the Medical Acute Care Unit at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, a long-term care acute hospital, I see many patients whose medical conditions are compromised because of COPD. Their hospital stays are longer and they require more intensive care.
The earlier you discover the disease, the sooner you can learn ways to manage it. That’s why I’m encouraging individuals who are at risk or who have symptoms to get diagnosed.
What are the causes of COPD? A few things can cause COPD, but smoking cigarettes is responsible in at least 75% of all cases in the U.S. Help is available to anyone who wants to quit smoking. For tips and strategies, check out makesmokinghistory.org.
Among nonsmokers, other risk factors for developing the condition include occupational exposure to dust and chemicals, and indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as a family history of COPD.
Common day-to-day COPD symptoms include:
- Coughing up mucus or phlegm
- Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
- Wheezing and chest tightness
Fortunately there are things you can do to help improve your breathing. Start by talking to your primary care provider. He or she will work with you to develop a plan to help manage the disease and lessen its impact on your life.
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