18 November 2015: Patients, health care professionals, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies are coming together to take action against one of the world’s most prevalent respiratory diseases.
The illness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a non-communicable lung disease that progressively robs sufferers of breath. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide1, causing more than 3 million deaths every year2, and up to half of people with the disease don’t know they have it.
This year is the fourteenth annual World COPD Day, an event held each November to raise awareness of COPD worldwide. This year’s World COPD Day theme, “It’s not too late,” emphasizes the meaningful actions people can take to improve their respiratory health, at any stage before or after a COPD diagnosis.
To mark the day, ECC will be running breathing capacity tests (spirometry) on the 18th of November, all morning, at the Berlaymont, the headquarter building of the European Commission, to inform civil servants working in the Berlaymont of the importance of lung health.Highly qualified European technicians will be performing free lung function tests and guiding people with a potential risk of COPD through the next stages of checking and treating.
The early stages of COPD are often unrecognized, in part because many individuals discount symptoms such as breathlessness, chronic cough, and bringing up phlegm as a normal part of getting older or an expected consequence of cigarette smoking.
There is no cure for COPD, which may also contribute to underdiagnosis of the disease. People whose breathlessness is more severe may find the possibility of finding out that they have COPD frightening, and avoid seeking treatment.
COPD occurs most often in patients who are over age 40 and who have a history of exposure to COPD risk factors. Worldwide, the most commonly encountered risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. Other important risk factors include dusts and chemicals encountered on the job and smoke from biomass fuels burned for cooking and heating in poorly ventilated dwellings, especially in low and middle income countries.
Patients may be able to slow or even stop the progress of COPD by reducing their exposure to risk factors for the disease. For people who smoke, the most effective strategy to prevent COPD or slow its progression is to quit smoking.
Without treatment, COPD is generally a progressive disease, and as the disease gets worse patients become breathless during everyday activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, walking the dog, or even getting washed and dressed in the morning.
COPD treatment is most effective when begun early in the course of the disease. However, at all stages of disease, treatments are available that reduce symptoms such as breathlessness and enable people to participate more fully in daily life. More information on treatment.
ECC’s colleagues from the European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Lung Foundation (ELF) will hold a seated lunch event on Tuesday 17 November 2015, 12:30 – 14:30 at the European Parliament, and free lung health testing will be conducted on site from 12:00 – 12:30 as well. The event is co-hosted by MEP Claudiu Ciprian Tănăsescu (S&D) and MEP Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar (EPP).
1. World Health Organisation: www.who.int/respiratory/copd/en
2. Lopez AD, Shibuya K, Rao C, Mathers CD, Hansell AL, Held LS, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: current burden and future projections. Eur Respir J 2006;27(2):397-412.
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