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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Some basic facts about COPD you should know

Perhaps secondary to pneumonia, the second most common type of patients I see on my respiratory therapy treatment sheet are COPD patients. In fact, I've seen so many of these patients I can recognize them by mere sight.

COPD is going to be the focus of this blog for the next month or so. I'm going to be analyzing this disease to provide me and my fellow RTs a nice refresher course, but to better educate my COPD audience as well. The more we RTs know, the better we can benefit our patients, and the more our patients know, the greater likelihood they will avoid having to come in to see us RTs.

I always say when I'm leaving a room knowing that the patient is going to be discharged later that day, "Well, the next time I see you it will be at a grocery store or a restaurant." Then they laugh. And they laugh with me two weeks later when I actually do meet them in a restaurant and barely recognize them because they are wearing street clothes.

But, far too often, we meet again in one of our hospital suites. Sometimes it's only a week or two after they were discharged, and the lucky ones I don't see for another year or so. Either way, the more they know, and the more I know to educate them with, the better off they are, and the more likelihood they can avoid visiting me again.

However, aside from being well educated, they also have to be compliant, or else no amount of education will do any good.

You can look up the definition of COPD via the various links on this blog if you want to. I'm not going to go into detail on that, at least not yet. What I'm going to delve into is deeper than what will be covered on most COPD websites.

I've decided that this week I would simply relay some basic facts regarding COPD that I've obtained via various sources:

  1. COPD is the 4th leading cause of death worldwide, yet 75% of those affected remain untreated. It is also the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  2. The World Health Organisation estimates 600 million people worldwide have COPD.

  3. COPD is projected to be the third leading cause of death by 2020 with only heart disease and cerebrovascular disease accounting for more deaths.

  4. Higher prevalence rates for COPD are found in men than in women globally reflecting historic gender differences in smoking behaviour.

  5. Prevalence figures for COPD are believed to be underestimated. Sufferers tend not to seek medical advice until the disease has progressed and the condition is severe. Or, in other words, an estimated 30 million Americans have COPD, while only 16 million adult Americans have been diagnosed with disease.[

  6. Quality of life is severely affected in patients with COPD, with 80% of patients hospitalised following an exacerbation reporting a health status rated or quoted by a physician as being 'worse than death'.

  7. Lost productivity due to COPD can have a devastating effect on the economy, and the greatest emphasis of medical professionals is to improve the quality of life for COPD patients so they can be productive members of society.

  8. COPD has a higher mortality rate than asthma (5,438 deaths from asthma in 1998 versus 107,000 deaths from COPD in 1998).)

  9. The highest increase in mortality has been in white women, as observed between 1960 and 1998.

  10. In 2000, the annual cost to the nation for COPD was estimated to be approximately $30.4 billion. Health care expenditures accounted for $14.7 billion, and indirect costs (decreased income due to loss of work or premature death) were $15.7 billion.

  11. In a recent survey, 7 out of 10 smokers could not identify COPD as a top-five killer.

  12. In 2002, about 125,000 people died of COPD.

  13. While other chronic health diseases such as heart disease and diabetes have decreased in the past 20 years, COPD rates have steadily increased.

  14. In a recent survey 66% of Americans did not know that COPD kills more women than men.

  15. Women who smoke are more susceptible to developing COPD than are men.

  16. Women may develop COPD at an earlier age and with less duration or intensity of smoking

  17. U.S. women had more COPD hospitalizations (404,000) than men (322,000) and also had more emergency department visits (898,000) than men (551,000) in 2000.

  18. More women than men die of COPD.

  19. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD

  20. Breathing in second hand smoke can cause COPD (in fact, I witnessed this with my grandma.)

  21. Working around certain kinds of chemicals and breathing in the fumes for many years can cause COPD.

  22. Working in a dusty area for many years, air pollution can cause COPD

  23. Having a history of frequent childhood lung infections can cause COPD

  24. Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency can cause COPD
Next week I'll focus on ways COPD sufferers can avoid a trip to the ER and live a more productive life. I'll provide some real life examples form my experiences.

Resources: AARP, COPD Coalition,,

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