November 16 – World COPD Day

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow. This common, preventable, and treatable chronic lung disease affects men and women worldwide. The WHO has reported that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide, causing 3.23 million deaths in 2019.

Both emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common types of COPD. While bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchi, the air pathways to the lungs, emphysema causes damage to the alveoli and the air sacs in the lungs. Common symptoms of COPD include feeling short of breath while resting or when doing physical activity, coughing, wheezing, fatigue, and/or mucus production that does not go away. Several processes cause the airways to become narrow including destruction of parts of the lung, mucus blocking the airways, and inflammation and swelling of the airway lining.

According to a report from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, in the United States, an estimated 16 million adults have COPD. The American Lung Association (ALA) thinks there may be as many as 24 million American adults living with COPD.

Why is Awareness of COPD required?

The third most common cause of mortality worldwide is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. In 2019, it was responsible for 32.3 lakh deaths. One of the main causes of COPD is tobacco use. Furthermore, underdiagnosis of COPD also adds to the increase in prevalence, which places a financial strain on patients and restricts their access to information about the condition and available treatments.

Research demonstrates that there are differences in COPD prevalence rates as well as a significant rate of underdiagnosis. The main cause of the high direct medical expenses and indirect costs of treating COPD is the disease’s late diagnosis. There is a higher exacerbation rate, more comorbidities, and higher costs associated with late diagnosis of COPD as opposed to early diagnosis.

This makes the necessity of a COPD Awareness Program clear. Furthermore, COPD is mentioned in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) as well as the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Several strategies have been used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve access to COPD diagnosis and treatment.

Importance of the World COPD Day

There have been 974 lakh more instances of COPD throughout the past three and a half decades. According to a study evaluating public attention to COPD from 2004 to 2018, the condition was significantly underrepresented about its prevalence and impact on world health. This can be resolved by raising public awareness of the illness, its signs, and its available treatments, which will enhance the patient’s quality of life. Reducing the prevalence of COPD may also involve raising awareness of its risk factors. Furthermore, it increases awareness of the risks associated with air pollution.

2023’s World COPD Day Theme

The topic for World COPD Day in 2023 is “Breathing is Life – Act Earlier.” The importance of early lung health and the methods that early intervention might increase the breadth of COPD prevention and therapy is highlighted by the theme. This may entail recognizing COPD in its precursor condition, detecting risk factors early on, tracking lung health from birth, and initiating therapy straight away.

Symptoms of COPD

When COPD symptoms initially appear, many people are unaware that they have the illness. When symptoms do arise, they typically start in middle age, and many people write them off as an inevitable part of aging. 

Typical COPD symptoms consist of

Growing dyspnea during an episode of a cough with discharge and frequent chest infections.

The severity of COPD symptoms varies from person to person. The following are the most typical signs of COPD: 

  • breathing difficulty that gets worse when exercising 
  • persistent cough, either clear or cloudy
  • Sporadic wheezing
  • recurring respiratory illnesses
  • Tiredness 
  • Having trouble inhaling deeply 
  • chest constriction 
  • Symptoms of an Exacerbation

A person with COPD may occasionally notice an abrupt increase in the quantity and intensity of their symptoms. This is referred to as an exacerbation or flare-up and is linked to worsening lung function, a lower quality of life, and in certain situations, the requirement for emergency room treatment or hospitalization.

An exacerbation may indicate a worsening of a person’s COPD at times. People may develop more severe and novel symptoms as their COPD worsens:

  • increased frequency of dyspnea, even during routine tasks like dressing 
  • intensified cough
  • increased secretion of mucus 
  • The mucus (phlegm) changes from being clear to being colored (yellow, green, or brown). 
  • extreme exhaustion 
  • Inability to sleep
  • headaches in the morning 

Stage-End Symptoms

People with COPD typically have more severe and frequent symptoms as the disease worsens. Symptoms of end-stage COPD may include:

  • breathing difficulties, even when at rest
  • diminished appetite 
  • ankles, feet, and legs swelling 
  • quick heartbeat 
  • respiratory infections that recur
  • Quick loss of weight 
  • extreme weariness 
  • headaches in the morning
  • intensified cough 
  • Perplexity

What causes COPD to occur?

Smoking is the primary cause of COPD. The longer you have been smoking and the more you smoke, the higher your risk of having COPD is. This is because smoking causes lung irritation and inflammation, which leaves scars.

The inflammation causes the lung to permanently alter over a long period. Increased mucus production and thickening of the airway walls occur. Emphysema results from damage to the fragile lungs’ air sac walls, which also causes the lungs to lose their natural suppleness. Additionally, the smaller airways shrink and get damaged. The COPD symptoms of dyspnea, cough, and phlegm are brought on by these alterations.

Rarer cases of COPD can be brought on by genetic diseases, dust, toxins, and air pollution.

Types of COPD

There are two primary forms of COPD linked to breathing problems and airway damage. They go by the names of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Extended Bronchitis 

The condition known as chronic bronchitis is brought on by inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which prevents air from passing through them. Mucus accumulates in the airways as a result, causing phlegm production and a persistent cough. Breathing becomes challenging when there is an abundance of mucus combined with narrowed airways.


Damage to the lungs’ air sacs results in emphysema. Although the air sacs are normally elastic, irritation-induced damage makes them saggy and reduces their capacity to carry carbon dioxide and oxygen into and out of the lungs. 

The majority of COPD patients also have emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow.

Risk elements

COPD risk factors include

  • Exposure to smoke from tobacco. 

The main cause of COPD is a history of long-term cigarette smoking. Your risk increases with the number of years and packs you smoke. Those who smoke marijuana, cigars, pipes, or other tobacco products, as well as those who are frequently around secondhand smoke, may also be at risk.

  • Those who have asthma. 

A persistent inflammatory airway illness called asthma may increase the chance of getting COPD. The risk of COPD is further increased when smoking and asthma coexist.

  • Industrial exposure

Industrial exposure to chemicals and dust. Your lungs may become irritated and inflamed if you are exposed to chemical fumes, vapors, or dust regularly at work.

  • Exposure to fuel combustion byproducts.

Exposure to fuel combustion byproducts. People in underdeveloped nations who live in dwellings with inadequate ventilation and are exposed to fumes from burning fuel for cooking and heating are more likely to develop COPD.

  • Inherited traits. 

Some COPD instances are caused by the rare genetic condition alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. There are probably more hereditary factors that increase a smoker’s risk of developing the illness.

Difficulties and problems

Several issues can arise from COPD, such as

  • Infected respiratory tract. It is more common for people with COPD to get pneumonia, the flu, and colds. Any respiratory infection has the potential to worsen lung tissue damage and make breathing considerably more difficult.
  • Cardiac issues. Heart disease, including heart attacks, can be made more likely by COPD for unclear reasons.
  • Lung malignancy. The risk of lung cancer is increased in those with COPD.
  • Elevated intracranial pressure in the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension, or elevated blood pressure in the arteries supplying blood to the lungs, is a possible side effect of COPD.
  • Despondency. Breathing problems may prevent you from engaging in enjoyable activities. Furthermore, managing a severe disease may have a role in the emergence of depression.

The following actions can assist in preventing COPD-related complications:

-Give up smoking to lower your risk of lung cancer and heart disease.

-To lower your risk of contracting some infections, consider getting vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia and the flu each year.

-If you feel hopeless or depressed, or if you suspect you may be suffering from depression, consult your physician.

Concerning COPD

Emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive airway disease are among the lung conditions together referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

The main cause of breathing problems in people with COPD is the narrowing of their airways, also known as airflow obstruction.

Who is in danger?

One of the most prevalent respiratory conditions in the UK is COPD. Though most people are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s, it typically only affects those over the age of 35.

In the UK, the condition is estimated to affect around 3 million people, of whom only roughly 900,000 have a diagnosis. This is because many COPD sufferers choose not to seek medical attention because they mistakenly believe their symptoms to be a “smoker’s cough.”

Men are more likely than women to have COPD, while rates among women are rising.

Diagnosis and testing

Early diagnosis of COPD is crucial to attempt and slow down the destruction of your lungs through treatment. If you experience any of the COPD symptoms, you should consult our doctor.

Following a meeting with your doctor and maybe breathing tests, COPD is typically diagnosed.

How to prevent or avoid getting COPD?

In contrast to many illnesses, COPD usually has a known origin, a well-defined course for prevention, and methods for delaying the disease’s course. Since most cases are directly linked to cigarette smoking, quitting smoking early on or never smoking is the greatest method to prevent COPD.

This straightforward advice might not appear so straightforward to long-term smokers, particularly if you’ve made numerous unsuccessful attempts to stop smoking. But don’t give up on quitting. Locating a smoke cessation program that can assist you in quitting permanently is essential. This is your best opportunity to lessen lung damage.

Another risk factor for COPD is exposure to chemical dust and fumes at work. Speak with your supervisor about the best ways to protect yourself, such as wearing respiratory protection equipment, if you work with these kinds of lung irritants.


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