Frequently Asked Questions About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Frequently Asked Questions About COPD

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  • Diagnosis for COPD usually begins with your doctor asking about any symptoms you’re experiencing. Next, they will use a stethoscope to examine your breathing, as well as inquiring if you smoke or not
  • There are times where asthma may be mistaken for COPD due to the similarity of symptoms, but it is an entirely different disease. In COPD, the known cause is smoking, as well as exposure to fumes
  • Life expectancy upon diagnosis of COPD is dependent on the severity of the disease, so it is difficult to pinpoint exact numbers regarding this situation

Q: What are the most common facts about COPD?

A: Not many people are aware of COPD, so it’s important to educate yourself about this disease. Here are some key facts regarding this condition:1

  • COPD is a life-threatening condition that interferes with normal breathing.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 64 million people around the world are living with COPD, with other studies suggesting that this figure is higher.
  • It is believed that in 2015 alone, 3.2 million people have already died from COPD.
  • Almost 90 percent of COPD deaths occur in low- and middle-income families.

Q: How do you know if you have COPD?

A: COPD often does not manifest until there is significant lung damage. Typically, chronic bronchitis appears in most people who have COPD. They may experience daily coughing and sputum production for at least three months to a year or two. Other signs and symptoms include:2

Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities

Wheezing

Chest tightness

Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning

A chronic cough that may produce sputum, which may be clear, white, yellow or greenish

Bluish lips or fingernail beds

Frequent respiratory infections

Lack of energy

Unintended weight loss (in later stages)

Swelling in ankles, feet or legs

Q: Is asthma considered COPD?

A: There are times asthma may be mistaken for COPD due to the similarity of symptoms, but it is an entirely different disease. The main difference  between the two diseases lies in  the cause. With  asthma, the causes are not exactly known and differ from person to person. In COPD, however, the known cause is smoking, as well as exposure to fumes.3

Q: How is COPD diagnosed?

A: Diagnosis for COPD usually begins with your doctor asking about any symptoms you’re experiencing'. Next, they will use a stethoscope to examine your breathing, as well as ask if you smoke or not. Once these procedures are complete, other tests that may help with the diagnosis are:4

  • Spirometry: A spirometer is a machine that will measure the volume of air you can breathe out in one second, as well as the total amount of air you exhale. Your results will then be compared to normal ranges to determine your current respiratory condition.
  • X-ray: A chest x-ray may be taken to look for problems in your lungs.
  • Blood tests: Your doctor may ask for a blood sample to rule out other conditions that cause symptoms similar to COPD, such as anemia.
  • Phlegm sample: A sample of your phlegm may need to be extracted to determine the cause of the chest infection.

Q: How long can you live with COPD?

A: Life expectancy upon diagnosis of COPD is dependent on the severity of the disease, so it is difficult to pinpoint exact numbers regarding this situation.5 However, there are certain averages that may be ascertained.

In a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, researchers computed probable life expectancy rates using information taken from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The following chart depicts the reduced years of 65-year-old males in the following categories.6

Those who smoke:

  • Stage 1: 0.3 years
  • Stage 2: 2.2 years
  • Stage 3 or 4: 5.8 years

 

Former smokers:

  • Stage 2: 1.4 years
  • Stage 3 or 4: 5.6 years

 

For those who never smoked:

  • Stage 2: 0.7 years
  • Stage 3 or 4: 1.3 years

 

Q: Is COPD fatal?

A: If your COPD is classified as a Type 3 or 4, that puts you at risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia or heart failure, which can be fatal.7

Q: Is COPD hereditary?

A: There are cases where COPD becomes a hereditary condition. According a study published by the University of Bergen, researchers discovered that problems found in two genes in chromosomes 4 and 15 can result in COPD.8

Q: What is COPD exacerbation?

A: A COPD exacerbation is another term for a flare-up, which means that your usual symptoms may worsen. During this episode, you may have trouble breathing.9

Q: How do you get COPD?

A: There are different risk factors associated with COPD:10

  • AAT Deficiency: This condition causes low levels of alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT), which may result in emphysema.
  • Air pollution: Indoor and outdoor air pollution can damage your lungs.
  • Occupational hazards: Jobs with harsh working conditions can leave your lungs exposed to dust, chemicals and gases that may eventually destroy your lungs.
  • Cigarettes: Smoking tobacco is a major factor in the development of COPD.
  • Secondhand smoke: Even if you don’t smoke cigarettes, inhaling secondhand smoke can damage your lungs.

MORE ABOUT COPD

COPD: An Introduction

What Is COPD?

COPD Symptoms

COPD Causes

COPD Stages

Types of COPD

COPD Treatment

COPD Life Expectancy

COPD Prevention

COPD Diet

COPD FAQ

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