For many people, respiratory illness is a tough but temporary situation that calls for sleep and chicken soup. For patients with COPD, suffering through symptoms like coughing, wheezing, fatigue, and increased mucus are part of everyday life – and there is no end in sight.

November is National COPD Awareness Month, an annual campaign that aims to spread awareness about the chronic lung condition that affects millions of people across the globe. Multiple agencies support the campaign with their own annual themes, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Learn More Breathe Better) and the COPD Foundation (Lace-Up For Lungs). Even citizens can get involved in the fight against COPD! Here’s what you need to know.

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic and progressive lung disease that causes difficulty breathing. The term includes two main conditions, Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis, though most patients with COPD have both.

The symptoms of COPD include chronic cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, increased mucus production, fatigue, and chest tightness. Patients may also experience recurrent respiratory infections that bring an increased risk of complications and COPD exacerbation.

COPD Causes

The number one cause of COPD is smoking. Those who have or currently smoke are at high risk of developing COPD. You don’t even have to smoke yourself – secondhand smoke is also a common contributor.

About 25% of COPD cases are caused by other factors, including exposure to air pollution, genetics, and untreated asthma. Recurrent lung infections as a child can also contribute to COPD later in life.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Because the symptoms of COPD are easily mistaken for other conditions, millions of people live with the disease for years without a diagnosis. COPD is easily diagnosed through spirometry, a simple breathing test that measures lung function. The test can be given in a doctor’s office and takes around 15 minutes to complete.

There is no cure for COPD, but early treatment can control the condition and slow its progression. In fact, patients who receive proper treatment can breathe better and live healthy, fulfilling lives! Depending on the severity of your condition, treatment can include lifestyle changes, inhaled medications, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and surgery.

How You Can Help

There are many ways to join the fight against COPD during National COPD Awareness Month! You can:

  • Wear orange to show your support for patients and healthcare providers fighting COPD
  • Make a donation to health organizations like the COPD Foundation
  • Share information about the disease on social media and with friends and family using #NationalCOPDMonth
  • Visit your doctor! If you’re concerned you may have COPD, schedule an appointment today.