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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung diseases that restrict airflow and cause trouble breathing. While other major causes of death have been decreasing, COPD mortality has continued to rise. COPD is the third leading cause of death and approximately 12 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD and research shows that many do not get optimal treatment. And millions more may have COPD and remain undiagnosed.

Key Facts About COPD in Indiana:

copd facts
  • Recent community health research conducted by Franciscan St. Francis Health ranks Marion, Morgan and Shelby counties among the worst in the state of Indiana for adults who smoke and emergency room visits for COPD.
  • In Indiana, an estimated 8.3% of adults reported having a diagnosis of COPD compared to the national prevalence of 6.3%.
  • More Indiana females reported a COPD diagnosis in 2011 than males.
  • In Indiana, 46.7% of adults who reported a COPD diagnosis had asthma during their lifetime and 40.4% currently have asthma.
  • Smoking is the most common risk factor associated with COPD. Of the adults who reported a COPD diagnosis in Indiana 78% smoked or have smoked in the life.
    • 45.0% currently smoke
    • 33.4% smoked at some point during their life
    • 21.6% indicated that they had never smoked

Understanding COPD

copdCOPD is the name for a group of diseases that restrict airflow and cause trouble breathing. The key words are "chronic" and "obstructive." Chronic means that it's going to be with you a long time. Obstructive means that airflow in the lungs is partly blocked.
COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis or both. Either may compromise lung function. Chronic bronchitis is increased cough and mucus production caused by inflammation of the airways. Emphysema is associated with damage of the air sacs and/or the smallest breathing tubes in the lungs.

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What Causes COPD?

Smoking cigarettes causes most COPD. In fact, smoking causes at least 75% of all COPD cases. Among nonsmokers, other risk factors for developing COPD may include long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, long-term asthma, occupational exposure to dust and chemicals, indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as a family history of COPD. As many as 1 out of 6 Americans with COPD has never smoked.
Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to prevent COPD and improve your quality of life if you are currently diagnosed with COPD.

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Want to break free of tobacco? The Aspire Tobacco Free program can help

COPD Symptoms
The first symptoms of COPD can be so mild that people mistakenly chalk them up to "getting old." People with COPD may develop chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. COPD tends to get worse over time, but catching it early, along with good care, can help many people stay active and may slow the disease. Signs and symptoms of COPD may include:

  • Constant coughing, sometimes called "smoker's cough"
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
  • Producing a lot of sputum (also called phlegm or mucus)
  • Feeling like you can't breathe or take a deep breath
  • Wheezing

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Diagnosis and Treatment of COPD
If you have COPD, you may find that your breathing has become more difficult while doing some things you used to do. The good news is there are things you can do to help improve your lung function so you can breathe better.

Your doctor will diagnose COPD based on your signs and symptoms, your medical and family histories, and test results. If you have an ongoing cough, let your doctor know how long you've had it, how much you cough, and how much mucus comes up when you cough. Also, let your doctor know whether you have a family history of COPD.

The main test for COPD is Spirometry, the leading lung function test. Other lung function tests, such as a lung diffusion capacity test, also might be used. Lung function tests measure how much air you can breathe in and out, how fast you can breathe air out, and how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood.

While there is no cure for COPD, treatment is available to manage the symptoms that are caused by COPD and improve quality of life. Treatment options include medication, such as inhalers, pulmonary rehabilitation, physical activity training, oxygen treatment and advanced interventional pulmonology procedures.

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Learn more about the Franciscan St. Francis Health COPD Program

Learn more about the Franciscan St. Francis Health Interventional Pulmonology Program

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