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What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) is a chronic airway inflammation disease. It's mainly caused by the inflammation in the airway and the lungs, which changes the structure of the airway and the pulmonary tract and finally causes the air flow limitation and not fully reversible, i.e. "breathing difficulty".

Prevalence of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease including chronic bronchitis and emphysema is one of the top 10 major diseases affecting global human health. Since 1982, the prevalence of this disease has risen 42% and mortality in the 32 years between 1970 and 2002 has increased more than 100%. According to a recent investigation in China, 8.2% of the population over 40 years of age is suffering from COPD. It is estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) that COPD will become the 5th global disease with a great economic burden in 2020.

Diagnoses of COPD

COPD is a progressive disease, mainly with progressive decline in lung function. It develops slowly and may also be overlooked in its early stage.However, with the continued development of this disease, patients may have to reduce their activities and have breathing difficulties. If COPD develops further, breathing difficulty, cyanotic lip and edema in the lower extremities can be observed even when the patient is resting. The patient’s ability to work can be lost too. At this stage, the disease is already irreversible, that is, despite the rapid development of modern medicine, nothing can be done to the disease now. So the early diagnosis and early interference of COPD is vitally important. Presently, the diagnosis of COPD mainly depends on the lung function measurement, which is atraumatic and convenient.

It is suggested that people with chronic cough and expectoration, smokers and people with dyspnea or breathing difficulty shall check their lung functions regularly, for example, once a year.

Symptoms of COPD

Chronic cough: At the early stage of this disease, cough occurs only occasionally and is heavier in the morning. Then, the patients may cough both in the morning and in the evening or all daytime, but the cough in the night is less.

Sputum: After the symptom of cough is observed, a little mucous sputum is usually found; if any inflammation occurs, the sputum may increase and generally purulent sputum can be observed.

Shortness of Breath or Breathing Difficulty: This is the typical sign of COPD. At first it occurs only after the manual work. Then, with the gradual worsening of the disease, the patients may have a feeling of shortness of breath after daily activities or even during the rest time.

Other symptoms: Wheeze. Constitutional symptoms can also be observed in severe patients, such as weight loss, decreased food appetite and mental anxiety.