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Early diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, also known as Emphysema or Chronic Bronchitis, is a disease caused by smoking. COPD is the most common and disabling of the chronic respiratory diseases. COPD is also one of the 5 leading causes of death in the world and there is a worrying increase in the number of cases according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) typically causes chronic blockage of airflow in the airways making it difficult for air to reach the bronchi and worsens with time.

 

 

 

Symptoms

Initial symptoms are mild and show up when doing physical activity. Symptoms are a productive cough (with an increase in mucus) and shortness of breath. If the disease goes undiagnosed and untreated, these symptoms will gradually worsen and will become evident with simple daily activities and even when walking. In addition to the symptoms that appear in the first stages of the disease and their worsening, other symptoms may appear during attacks of cold or respiratory infection.

 

Diagnosis

In Spain, of the 21.4 million people aged from 40 to 80, 2,185,764 have COPD. And, as 73% of these are undiagnosed, it can be said that over 1,595,000 Spanish people who have the disease do not yet know and, therefore, are not being treated for the disease, which may alter the course of the disease. Spirometry, a simple, painless test carried out in the pulmonologist’s office, makes early diagnosis of COPD possible, although doesn’t indicate the seriousness of the patient’s condition.

The Spanish Respiratory Disease Society (SEPAR) recommends the use of screening questionnaires and carrying out spirometry tests in adults over 35 years of age who are smokers or ex-smokers with respiratory symptoms.

 

Treatment

The most important thing in treating COPD is to stop smoking and the use of inhalers (bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory drugs) that act directly on the bronchi, dilating these and easing the patient’s breathing. To stop smoking and early diagnosis are the main measures to prevent the disease or to stop it progressing. Furthermore, regular exercise and eating a healthy diet improve breathing, stamina and the quality of life of the COPD patient.

 

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