November is COPD Awareness Month. As the third leading cause of death in the United States having moved up from being the fourth leading cause, it deserves the attention.
In an interview with EmpowHER, Jane M. Martin, BA, LRT, CRT of the COPD Foundation said, "It is the only one in the top 10 causes that is on the rise. All the others are declining."
Martin is the Associate Director of Education for the COPD Foundation. She has worked in respiratory care for over 30 years.
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The COPD Foundation, with the assistance of a team of pulmonary experts, has defined COPD thusly:
"COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness."
Martin said that "in layman's terms, 'chronic' means that if you have the condition, you will always have it." Even during times when symptoms are not flared up, it's still there.
"Obstructive" refers to the fact that the sufferer in Martin's words, "has trouble getting air out, though it may actually feel like they're not getting enough air in. Their lungs get overexpanded and overinflated."
"Pulmonary" has to do with the lungs.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an umbrella term that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic bronchiectasis (a disorder where lungs deal with excess phlegm that is caught in pockets that cause infection).
A genetic form of emphysema called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency causes a lack of protein that normally protects the lungs. The founder of the COPD Foundation has this condition.
Someone with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency can have flareups and not know they have the condition, often being misdiagnosed as having asthma. If you wonder whether this is the case for you, a simple blood test will uncover the condition.
Some of COPD's symptoms are coughing, breathlessness, sputum production and wheezing.