COPD Awareness Month: Learn More, Find Support

(November 8, 2013)

COPD (short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung disease that, over time, makes it hard to breathe and can even lead to death.  Close to 13 million American adults have been diagnosed with COPD, and it’s estimated that another 12 million in the U.S. may be suffering from the disease, but have not yet been diagnosed. That’s why the American Lung Association is doing what it can this November – COPD Awareness Month – to raise awareness about this deadly disease and help those with COPD manage it and lead healthier, more active lives.

Understanding COPD

COPD, also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is a very serious disease, and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The primary cause of COPD is smoking, but it can be caused by other factors, including exposure to air pollution. The good news is that COPD is preventable and treatable

Symptoms of COPD include:

  • Persistent cough, sometimes called "smoker's cough"
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
  • Producing a lot of sputum (also called phlegm or mucus)
  • Feeling like you can't breathe or take a deep breath
  • Wheezing

Like most diseases, the earlier COPD is diagnosed, the better one’s chances for leading a full and high-quality life. People at risk of COPD, especially current and former smokers, should consult their physicians about a test called “spirometry” in order to diagnose the disease as early as possible and begin treatment.

Once Diagnosed:

  • If you’re a smoker – quit now. Stopping smoking has more positive impact on the disease than any other type of treatment.
  • Take any medicine you’re prescribed exactly as instructed. If you are having problems, talk with your healthcare provider about possible solutions.
  • Get active!  Keep as physically fit as possible and discuss pulmonary rehabilitation with your physician.  Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you rebuild strength and reduce shortness of breath.
  • Educate yourself.  The Lung Association has a wealth of information and resources to help you better understand your lungs and COPD.
  • Get Support. Controlling COPD is easier as a team effort.  Ask for and get support from those who love you.

COPD and Quality of Life

It is common for people with COPD to feel isolated. Some people with COPD find it difficult to leave the house or enjoy the activities they used to. It has been shown that people with COPD may benefit from social support and it can improve quality of life. This translates into better health outcomes in general.

You may be wondering where to even begin looking for social support. It is important to remember that each person’s preferences are different, but luckily social support exists in different forms. There are in-person support groups like our Better Breather’s Clubs and online support communities like our Lung Connection. Some people also find going to pulmonary rehabilitation a great way to interact with others and gain confidence outside of the house. Whether you are newly diagnosed, have been living with COPD for a while or are even a caregiver to someone with COPD, there exists a group of people out there that are in your shoes.

*COPD Webcast

On November 19, 2013 at 3 pm EST, we will be hosting a very special webcast called COPD Awareness Month: Connecting with Social Support. On this webcast, we will discuss the relationship between social support and COPD, how to connect with social support and walk participants through how to use our online support community, The Lung Connection.  Register today!

If you want more information about COPD, check out our web resources or call the Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNGUSA; 1-800-586-4872).