Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third most common cause of death in the United States, yet nearly 40% of American’s diagnosed with the disease have never heard of it before their diagnosis. This startling number highlights how little the public knows about this debilitating disease.
COPD is a disease that makes it progressively harder to breathe over time. This happens because the airways in your lung become damaged, losing their shape and collapsing in on themselves, and the air sacs in your lung progressively get destroyed, making it harder to get oxygen into your blood. If you could imagine breathing through a straw while exercising this would be an accurate representation of the difficulty breathing people with COPD experience. You may be more familiar with two conditions encompassed by the term COPD: emphysema, damage of your air sacs, and bronchitis, damage of your airways. People who have COPD generally have both conditions.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD, however pollution, dust, or chemical fumes can also contribute to the disease. Still, 8 out of every 10 COPD deaths are caused by smoking and as such the biggest thing you can do to limit your risk of COPD is to not smoke. There is no cure for COPD, only treatments that help manage the symptoms. With numbers on the rise every year, a recent survey by Health Union has tried to shed some light onto what people living with COPD suffer from or worry about most:
- Many people in the survey were initially diagnosed as mild or moderate COPD but have since progressed to severe COPD.
- 87% of respondents said that COPD impacted their ability to do many things that they used to.
- 79% reported feeling fatigued or tired frequently.
- 78% had regrets about what they did in the past and wish they had done things differently.
- 67% reported blaming themselves for having COPD
- 67% of people had difficulty getting around the house and cannot partake in strenuous physical activity.
The respondents complained of the following symptoms:
- 78% – shortness of breathing in everyday activities
- 74% – problems catching their breath
- 69% – problems with energy levels
When asked what they wish they knew more about:
- 64% didn’t know how COPD would affect their lifestyle
- 63% want to know how to slow or stop their COPD
- Surprisingly, 39% of people didn’t even know what COPD was at the time of their diagnosis.
When asked why they hadn’t quit smoking upon their diagnosis:
- 77% said smoking helped them deal with stress
- 74% people had problems with craving smoke
- 63% of people still enjoyed smoking even in light of their diagnosis
This survey has offered some insight into the problems people with COPD suffer from and will hopefully act better inform those of us who don’t understand not only what COPD is but also how it affects individuals with the condition. Sadly, many people in the survey described feelings of fear, debilitation, feeling horrible or feeling like hell. Additionally, many of the responders were on disability (28%) or were retired (40%) meaning they suffer a burden when trying to pay for the many different medications and hospital bills they may incur.