While Americans’ awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) continues to rise, many of those at risk don’t talk to their doctor about symptoms. That is according to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
“COPD is surpassing other diseases as a major killer in this country. We want to reverse this trend by educating people about the symptoms, so they can get proper treatment as early as possible,” said James P. Kiley, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI Division of Lung Diseases, in a press release from the organization.
COPD affects 24 million people in the United States, yet as many as half of them have not been diagnosed. The third-leading cause of death in the U.S., COPD causes shortness of breath, chronic coughing or wheezing, excess sputum production and a feeling of not being able to take a deep breath.
According to the survey of almost 4,200 adults, 71 percent of respondents said that they are aware of COPD, compared with 65 percent in 2008. Awareness among those most at risk – current and former smokers – increased even more. Among current smokers, awareness rose to 78 percent, up from 69 percent in 2008. Awareness among former smokers rose to 76 percent, up from 68 percent in 2008.
The survey also found that 27 percent of current smokers said they had suffered from a chronic cough or wheezing or had been too short of breath to do normal activities in the past year. That’s more than double the rate in the general population (13 percent). However, 40 percent of smokers who said they had these COPD symptoms had not discussed them with a doctor or other healthcare provider.
Said Kiley, “It is not enough to have heard of COPD. Those at risk need to know the signs so they can talk to their healthcare provider about any breathing problems they are having and, hopefully, find relief.”