COPD Ignored by Doctors and Patients
New Approach Needed in Detecting and Treating Nation's No. 4 Killer: COPD
WebMD News Archive
What Is COPD? continued...
In fact, Buist says the symptoms of COPD are often confused
with the normal aging process. Those symptoms include:
- Persistent cough, with increased sputum (phlegm) production
- Shortness of breath during physical exertion
- Decline in quality of life
Since these changes are gradual, researchers say the majority
of people with COPD aren't diagnosed until they are hospitalized, and only
about 25% to 50% of those with the disease are aware of it.
By the time most people with COPD do seek medical attention for
these symptoms, typically while in their mid-50s, Buist says many have already
lost up to half of their lung function.
Researchers say that early detection and treatment of COPD is
the key to slowing the decline in lung function that occurs and preventing
premature death from the disease.
That's why a new program initiated by the American College
of Chest Physicians is targeting family doctors, internists, and other primary
care providers to increase their awareness of COPD and encourage them to screen
for this deadly disease as they would other chronic conditions such as
diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
"In just the same way we identify people with high blood
pressure, give them advice with lifestyle changes, and design the best
treatment," says Michael C. Iannuzzi, MD, chief of pulmonary, critical care
and sleep medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "We have
to have the same approach for COPD: measure, lifestyle change, treat."
Iannuzzi recommends that people with symptoms or risk factors
for COPD, such as smoking, receive spirometry testing as a part of their
regular health check-ups to screen for and diagnose COPD.
A spirometry test is a noninvasive test that measures lung
function and is the only test that can confirm a suspected diagnosis of COPD.
It involves exhaling into a machine attached to a computer that provides a
measurement percentile based on the patient's age, height, and weight. Any
number lower than 80% of the predicted measurement based on those factors is
"Test your lungs, know your numbers," says