What is terrifying death or ignorance

Experts * warn: ignorance among the population about the widespread disease COPD is still alarmingly high

World COPD Day 2018

The first symptoms are often not taken seriously enough

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short, is the third leading cause of death worldwide after heart attacks and strokes. Ascending trend. But the population's knowledge of this disease is still shockingly low, warn Austria's pulmonologists. Obvious symptoms are often ignored and a doctor is often only consulted very late. This means that valuable time is lost, because the earlier the disease is treated, the greater the possibilities of "stopping" COPD today. This is of key importance because CPOD is incurable and, if left untreated, leads to an excruciating death from suffocation.

On the occasion of World COPD Day on November 21, the Secretary General of the Austrian Society for Pneumology, ÖGP, Prim. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Bernd Lamprecht, insisted on how important it is to take the first signs of COPD such as long-term coughs seriously and to consult the doctor. However, the presence of a number of different risk factors also makes it necessary to clarify whether you have COPD.

Until a few years ago the therapeutic options were very limited, today modern precision therapy makes it possible to do something specifically against COPD. According to the pulmonologist, the decisive factor is that the earlier COPD is detected and treated, the better the prognosis and quality of life for those affected.

The first symptoms are often not noticed or are "masked" by common infections

Sputum, cough, shortness of breath - the so-called AHA symptoms can be the first signs of COPD. But these initial symptoms are often played down or attributed to other “circumstances” or illnesses. Breathing is initially only slightly restricted, and shortness of breath only occurs during physical exertion. A symptom that is dismissed with "You are just not in good shape at the moment". The main symptom “cough” is unfortunately often played down, according to Prim. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Bernd Lamprecht, Vo

rstand of the Department of Lung Medicine, Kepler University Hospital, Linz: "One of the reasons why COPD is so insidious is that the first symptoms are often not properly perceived, recognized and therefore not communicated to the doctor."

Especially in the cold season, long-lasting coughs are often not taken seriously enough or are attributed to an existing flu or an influenza-like infection, which means that COPD is not recognized in good time. Patients should therefore consult their doctor always report a long-standing cough. The alarm bells should ring, especially if the cough has persisted for more than eight weeks. A simple pulmonary function test, a spirometry, can provide valuable information about the possible presence of COPD. COPD should definitely be diagnosed and treated when the symptoms are not yet clinically severe. In other words, when the patient already has COPD but can still 'hide' the symptoms through avoidance strategies - including from themselves. Because: the earlier COPD is detected and the more individualized treatment is given, the more favorable the course. COPD cannot be cured, but the course can be slowed down or stopped.

Risk Factors - Smoking is the main risk factor

“Smoking is by far the biggest risk factor for developing COPD. The majority of all COPD patients are active or former smokers, ”says the lung specialist Lamprecht. “Tobacco smoke contains numerous substances that cause inflammatory reactions that damage lung tissue. On the one hand, this increases the production of bronchial mucus and, on the other hand, impairs the self-cleaning mechanism of the airways: foreign substances can no longer be sufficiently removed, and the lung tissue is additionally damaged. But: Not only active but also passive smoking can lead to COPD! "

Clarification also makes sense for other risk factors

Further risk factors are: increased respiratory diseases in childhood, fine dust pollution e.g. from traffic and industry as well as other pollutants from air and environmental pollution or pollution in the workplace (e.g. chemicals in the plastics industry or in car paint shops, dust pollution on construction sites, in cattle stalls, in mining and sweat - and fire fighting work etc.). People who suffer from a severe, rare hereditary disease, the so-called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, are also at high risk of COPD. "Anyone who belongs to a risk group, even if they do not suffer from a chronic cough, should have a pulmonologist clarify whether they have COPD from the age of 50 at the latest."

COPD affects the entire body

Lamprecht: “COPD can also be 'associated' with other lung diseases. Lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and breathing disorders during sleep are more common in COPD patients than in their peers with healthy lungs. "

The disease also affects the entire body: cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, but also anemia, muscle breakdown and weight loss are among the consequences of COPD. "Mental illnesses, especially anxiety and depression, which increase with the severity of the illness, are frequent companions of COPD and have an additional negative impact on quality of life," says Lamprecht. Especially in the advanced stage of the disease, when patients have to struggle with severe shortness of breath and have to be constantly supplied with oxygen through a "nasal cannula". Even if the modern mobile oxygen devices are a huge step forward compared to earlier, the patients suffer from the restriction of their range of motion and action. This often leads them to social isolation. “Nasal cannula and oxygen therapy immediately show that this is a seriously ill person. And that alone is what many of those affected find very stressful and stigmatizing, ”says Lamprecht.

Precision therapy for COPD

Now for the good news: Thanks to better knowledge of the various forms of COPD, new findings and a deeper understanding of the complex relationships of this disease, modern diagnostic options as well as new drugs and accompanying therapies, COPD patients can be treated much better and with significantly fewer side effects than earlier. Lamprecht: “People who suffer from COPD may have the same symptoms, but different forms of the disease. And it is precisely this that must now be recognized. The 'right therapy' must be used with the 'right expression'. And we're getting better and better today. "

The various therapeutic options, such as inhaled medication, oxygen therapy, non-invasive respiratory support, valves to reduce pulmonary overinflation, etc., can now increasingly be used specifically where they are most successful. This saves valuable time, avoids side effects and saves costs. And most importantly: the quality of life of the patient is significantly increased.

About COPD

COPD is not always COPD. Under chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, This is the German term for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), one understands different manifestations of the disease that are associated with a narrowing (obstruction) of the airways and / or a non-reversible overinflation of the lungs (pulmonary emphysema). The starting point is always a chronic inflammation of the bronchi. In COPD, the lungs react with excessive inflammatory reactions, which lead to irreversible damage to the lung structure and ultimately to the destruction of the lungs.

In principle, there are two main forms: COPD with chronic bronchitis, i.e. an inflammatory narrowing of the bronchi, and COPD with pulmonary emphysema, i.e. with overinflation of the lungs, in which the breathing air can no longer be fully exhaled and less fresh air can be inhaled. In both cases, cough and shortness of breath are the main symptoms. Often both forms occur together.

* For reasons of better readability, gender-based spelling has not been used throughout the text. All terms apply to both women and men.


Prim. Priv.-Doz. Dr. Bernd Lamprecht
Secretary General of the Austrian Society for Pneumology
Board of Directors of the Pulmonary Clinic
Kepler University Hospital
Med Campus III.
Krankenhausstrasse 9
4021 Linz / Austria
T +43 (0) 5 7680 83 - 0

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