Facts About COPD – HealthyWomen

Everyone has a cough or feels short of breath from time to time (thanks, stairs). But symptoms that persist and worsen are a sign of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a group of diseases that block airflow and create breathing-related problems. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, COPD can cause serious lung damage and even death.

About 16 million people in the US live with COPD, and more than half are women. And that number may be higher because some people don’t even know they have it. “The number one reason it’s an invisible epidemic is that chronic lung diseases parallel the aging process,” he said. Jean Wright, MD, general director of the EPOC Foundation. “People don’t know they have a problem. “They just slow down or don’t do things as vigorously as before.”

Wright said symptoms start subtly and the risk of COPD is higher for women and people assigned female at birth compared to men.

Here you will find more information about the symptoms, risk factors, and important information you need to know about COPD.

What is COPD?

COPD is a term for a group of diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema,which cause breathing problems and block air flow. COPD develops over time and the main cause is smoking and prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke. However, you can still be diagnosed with COPD even if you have no history of smoking.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

Signs of COPD can start small and get worse over the years. Common symptoms include:

  • Frequent cough (with and without mucus)
  • wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty breathing deeply
  • Chest tightness
  • lack of resistance
  • Lack of energy

Women are usually diagnosed with COPD at a younger age compared to men. “We get it in our 40s and 50s, whereas men can be in their 50s and 60s, and we have a higher burden of disease,” Wright said. “The symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath are more dramatic in us.”

If you have symptoms of COPD, ask your healthcare provider (HCP) about taking a Spirometry test to measure how well your lungs are working. Other tests used to help diagnose COPD may include:

What are the risk factors for COPD?

Tobacco smoke is the leading cause of COPD in the US, but you may also be at risk for COPD if you:

  • Have a history of asthma
  • You have a rare genetic disorder called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.
  • Have been or are exposed to irritants such as dust, fumes, and chemical vapors.
  • Has been or is exposed to burning fuel.
  • Living in a rural area

As you age, your lungs weaken, which can increase your chances of getting COPD or worsen your symptoms.

Women and COPD

Over the past 24 years, COPD cases have increased in women and more women die from COPD than men. Researchers are still trying to figure out why this happens, but one idea is that women’s lungs and airways are smaller and more likely to be damaged by tobacco smoke and air pollution compared to men. Men’s. “Most of us have shorter bodies and smaller lung capacity,” Wright said. Investigation shows that women who smoke are diagnosed with COPD at a younger age compared to men who smoke, even when women smoke less.

Wright also noted that estrogen may play a role in why women get COPD, but research is being done.

In general, women are more likely to be misdiagnosed and experience a delayed diagnosis of COPD compared to men. And a late diagnosis means COPD is harder to treat.

The delay may be due to bias, since until recently COPD was typically diagnosed only in men. Socioeconomic factors, including lack of access to health care and education, can also cause a delay in diagnosis.

Women with COPD are also more likely to suffer from osteoporosis and depression compared to women without COPD.

Can COPD be prevented?

The good news is that you can take steps to prevent COPD. First, if you smoke, quit.

Avoid tobacco smoke and air pollutants at home and at work. Proper ventilation and eliminating exposure to hazardous materials can help reduce COPD-related illnesses.

Additionally, staying healthy and free of respiratory infections can help prevent COPD.

If you have COPD, early treatment can reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Treatment options for COPD

Treatment options for COPD are different depending on the diagnosis and severity of symptoms. With the help of a healthcare professional, you can find a treatment plan to help reduce symptoms and symptom frequency and slow the progression of the disease. Treatment options include:

  • Medicine
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation programs to help with breathing.
  • oxygen therapy
  • Surgery

Wright suggested getting involved in a patient support group to talk about treatment options and also learn about clinical trials and advocacy organizations. “You don’t have to suffer alone. You can learn a lot more from others in that space and we want people to have hope.”

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