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Ignorance about common disease COPD: First symptoms are often not taken seriously
Especially during the cold period, long-lasting cough is often not taken seriously enough or is attributed to an existing flu or a simple cold. But the complaints can also be caused by a previously incurable common disease: COPD.
The third leading cause of death worldwide
If there is a long-lasting cough in autumn and winter, this is often due to the fact that simply the immune system is not strong enough during the cold period and therefore you have caught a flu or a flu-like infection. But the complaints can also indicate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Although this disease is the third leading cause of death worldwide after a heart attack and stroke, according to experts, knowledge of the population is still shockingly low.
Untreatable illness leads to painful death if left untreated
Although more and more people are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is popularly known as smoker's cough or smoker's lung, knowledge of this disease is still alarmingly low among the population, warned Austria's lung specialists.
Since clear symptoms are often ignored and a doctor is often consulted very late, valuable time is lost, because the earlier the disease is treated, the greater the chances of “stopping” COPD today.
This is of central importance because the disease is incurable and, if left untreated, leads to an agonizing death from suffocation.
Take the first hints seriously
The Secretary General of the Austrian Society for Pneumology, ÖGP, Prim. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Bernd Lamprecht, on the occasion of World COPD Day on November 21, insists on the importance of taking the first signs of COPD such as long-lasting cough seriously and seeing the doctor.
As stated in a company statement, the presence of a number of different risk factors also makes it necessary to clarify whether there is a COPD.
Until a few years ago, the therapeutic options were still very limited, in recent years there have been reports of new therapeutic approaches or even the hope of a breakthrough in the treatment of COPD.
However, it is always crucial: the earlier the disease is recognized and treated, the better the prognosis and quality of life of those affected.
AHA symptoms can be the first signs
Sputum, cough, shortness of breath - the so-called AHA symptoms can be the first signs of COPD.
However, these initial symptoms are often trivialized or attributed to other “circumstances” or illnesses. Breathing is only slightly restricted at the beginning, shortness of breath only occurs during physical exertion.
A symptom that is dismissed with sentences such as "You are not in good condition at the moment". The main symptom of “cough”, according to Dr. Lamprecht unfortunately often trivialized.
"COPD is so insidious, among other things, because the first symptoms are often not perceived correctly by the patient, recognized and therefore not communicated to the doctor," said the doctor.
Especially in the cold period, long-lasting cough is often not taken seriously enough or attributed to an infection and COPD is therefore not recognized in time. Therefore, patients should always tell their doctor about a persistent cough.
Especially if the cough persists for more than eight weeks, the alarm bells should ring.
History can be slowed down or stopped
A simple pulmonary function test, so-called spirometry, can provide valuable information about the possible presence of COPD.
The disease should definitely be diagnosed and treated when the symptoms are not yet clinically significant. So if the patient is already ill, but can still 'hide' the symptoms - also from himself - through avoidance strategies.
Because: The earlier COPD is recognized and the more individualized the therapy, the more favorable the course. COPD cannot be cured, but the course can be slowed down or stopped.
Main risk factor smoking
Sometimes non-smokers are also affected, but: “Smoking is by far the biggest risk factor for the development of COPD. The majority of all COPD patients are active or former smokers, ”explained the lung specialist Lamprecht.
"There are numerous substances in tobacco smoke that cause inflammatory reactions that damage the lung tissue," said the doctor.
"This increases the production of bronchial mucus on the one hand, and impairs the self-cleaning mechanism of the respiratory tract on the other: foreign substances can no longer be adequately removed, and the lung tissue is additionally damaged," said the expert.
"But: Not only active but also passive smoking can lead to COPD!"
People from risk groups should consult a pulmonologist from the age of 50
Other risk factors include: increased respiratory diseases in childhood, fine dust pollution, for example from traffic and industry, and other pollutants from air and environmental pollution.
Or also pollution at the workplace (for example chemicals in the plastics industry or in car painting shops, dust pollution on construction sites, in cattle stalls, in mining, as well as during welding and fire extinguishing work, etc.).
People who suffer from a serious, rare inherited disorder, the so-called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, are also at high risk of COPD.
"If you belong to a risk group, even if you do not have a chronic cough, you should check with your pulmonologist at the latest from the age of 50 whether you have COPD."
COPD affects the entire body
"COPD can also be 'associated' with other lung diseases. In COPD patients, for example, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and respiratory disorders occur more often than with lung-healthy peers, “explained Lamprecht.
As a result, the disease affects the entire body: cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, but also anemia, muscle loss and weight loss are among the consequences of COPD.
"Mental illnesses, especially anxiety and depression, which increase with the severity of the illness, are a frequent companion of COPD and also have a serious impact on the quality of life," says Lamprecht.
Especially in the advanced stage of the disease, in which patients are struggling with severe shortness of breath and need to be constantly supplied with oxygen through “nasal cannula”.
Even if the modern mobile oxygen devices are an enormous advance over the past, the patients suffer from the restriction of their range of motion and action. This often leads them to social isolation.
“Nasal cannulae and oxygen therapy immediately show that it is a seriously ill person. And that alone affects many affected people as very stressful and stigmatizing, ”said Lamprecht.
Increased quality of life for patients
Austria's pulmonary specialists also have good news: thanks to better knowledge of the different forms of COPD, new knowledge and a deeper understanding of the complex relationships of this disease, modern diagnostic options and new medications and accompanying therapies, COPD patients can do much better today and with significantly less Side effects are treated as before.
"People who suffer from COPD have the same symptoms, but different forms of the disease," explained Lamprecht.
"And this is exactly what needs to be recognized. The 'right therapy' must be used with the 'right expression'. And we're doing it better and better today. ”
The various therapeutic options, such as inhaled medication, oxygen therapy, non-invasive breathing support, valves to reduce over-inflation of the lungs, etc. can therefore increasingly be used where they are most successful.
This saves valuable time, side effects are avoided and costs are saved. And most importantly, the patient's quality of life is significantly increased. (ad)