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: World COPD Day: It’s Not Too Late to Make a Change

World COPD Day: It’s Not Too Late to Make a Change

Content Specialist

Today is World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Day. Organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), it is a day to raise awareness and improve care of COPD, which is a group of lung diseases where progressive damage to the airways compromises the ability to breathe. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading cause of death in the United States. This number is projected to increase in the coming years, especially because many believe that COPD is under diagnosed.


Although genetic and environmental factors contribute to COPD, smoking remains the predominant reason for developing COPD. There is no cure for COPD, but treatment options can help alleviate symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.


Moreover, smoking cessation is essential to managing COPD. Yet, for many patients it may be difficult to quit smoking, recover from smoking relapses, and permanently quit smoking. The struggle to quit smoking is compounded by the stigma surrounding COPD. For smokers, this stigma derives from the perception of COPD as a disease that is preventable, self-inflicted, and aggravated by actions (i.e., continued smoking) that are under the patient's control.  


As a result, patients with COPD often struggle with feelings of guilt for causing or worsening their condition, embarrassment for limitations on day-to-day physical activities, and shame for needing to explain their diagnosis when they cannot pass as healthy individuals.


Although patients with COPD may create challenges for providers because of noncompliance with smoking cessation or other treatments, it is necessary to confront the stigma surrounding COPD to elicit long-lasting behavioral changes in patients. Confronting and overcoming addiction may be problematic for those who lack social support. Positive and supportive messaging--encouraging open dialogue and positive changes--can be effective in helping smokers who have COPD, when combined with other strategies.


The theme this year for World COPD Day--"It's Not Too Late"--promotes actions that providers and patients can take at any stage of COPD diagnosis to better manage COPD. This theme reflects the need for maintaining a positive and supportive tone around managing COPD and focusing on what can be done to treat COPD rather than fixating on the lifestyle decisions that caused the condition.


It's not too late--not for patients who are trying to live a healthy life, nor for doctors who are trying to more effectively talk to their patients about managing COPD.    

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