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COPD to become third leading cause of death but do you know what it is?

Posted: 30/11/2016


Throughout November 2016, charities have been campaigning to raise awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – which is often abbreviated as COPD. It is estimated that millions of people across the UK are suffering with COPD, but are totally unaware. Consequently, they are not receiving treatment which could mean that their condition is getting worse.

The World Health Organisation predicts that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 (http://www.who.int/respiratory/copd/en/) so isn’t it about time that we found out more about this disease? 

What is COPD?

COPD is used to describe many different progressive lung diseases including emphysema, severe bronchitis, non-reversible asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. 

COPD makes it difficult for a person to empty air out of their lungs because their airways have been narrowed. This means the lungs have difficulty in taking in oxygen and getting rid of carbon monoxide.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

The symptoms to look out for include:

  • a persistent cough
  • breathlessness with physical exertion
  • regularly coughing up phlegm
  • haemoptysis (blood in your sputum)
  • wheezing
  • weight loss
  • extreme tiredness
  • waking up at night as a result of breathlessness

It is thought that the reasons why many people do not seek medical help when they are suffering with symptoms consistent with COPD is because they attribute them to either a recurring chest infection, being generally unfit, or being due to a smoker’s cough. 

People with long-term asthma and smokers are more at risk of developing COPD but there are some cases where COPD can be caused by fumes, dust, air pollution and genetic disorders.

COPD is a long-term condition and it is not possible to reverse the damage to the lungs once it has occurred. However, there are treatments which can allow a patient to breathe more easily and delay the progression of the disease, meaning that it is important for there to be an early diagnosis.

Emma Beeson, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, who deals with a number of cases relating to lung diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis and COPD, explains: “I am currently acting for a client whose COPD went undiagnosed by the doctors. He had never heard of COPD before and so had no reason to suspect that his symptoms could be the result of this condition. At Penningtons Manches, we support raising awareness of COPD to help educate people on the signs to look out for so that patients can seek treatment as soon as possible rather than suffer in silence. Without treatment, COPD will continue to progress and the damage caused to the lungs is irreversible. Early diagnosis and early treatment are therefore paramount.”

If you, a friend or family member have any concerns relating to treatment linked to a lung disease or lung disorder, please contact our clinical negligence team on freephone 0800 328 9545.


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