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Stopping smoking can change the course of disease November 14, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Research.
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smokingChronic Obstructive Airways Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe prolonged airflow obstruction that is mainly associated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This common lung disease, which is a leading global health problem, causes significant worldwide disability.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are an estimated 600 million people worldwide with COPD and this number is increasing. COPD kills more people annually than lung cancer and breast cancer combined. COPD has a major impact on a patient’s quality of life. Nearly 3 out of every 4 patients have difficulty performing even the simplest daily tasks. Health care costs are high and COPD has a negative impact on family life. More than half of the people with COPD do not know they have the disease. They tend to accept that the limitations caused by the disease are natural for a person who has smoked for a number of years.

Cigarette smoking is by far the most important cause of COPD. Exposure to indoor pollution through the burning of biomass fuels for cooking and heating contributes to the increasing COPD cases in the developing world. Recurrent respiratory tract infection, air pollution and allergies may also predispose a person to developing COPD.

Typically, COPD patients may not have symptoms until middle age, when their ability to exercise or do strenuous work starts to decline and a productive cough begins. Subtle at first, these problems worsen as the patient ages and the disease progresses. Eventually they cause difficulty breathing even on minor exertion, frequent respiratory infections and oxygen deficiency. Advanced COPD causes chest deformities, overwhelming disability, heart enlargement, respiratory failure and death.

If you suspect that you may be at risk, seek medical advice. Attitudes towards the management of COPD are changing. Stopping smoking is the single most important intervention that can change the course of the disease. New research has shown that there are medications available that may relieve symptoms, prevent complications and improve quality of life. Finally, exercise programs to suit each individual patient have been shown to reduce breathlessness, improve physical strength and give a sense of well-being.

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