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Impact of “Seasonal COPD” Reviewed

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often have a significant disease burden that is particularly associated with the peak incidence of exacerbation events during winter months. Per a review of several existing studies, researchers evaluated the impact of seasonality in COPD, and found that there is indeed important considerations for understanding how all factors of the disease might impact patients and where interventions can be targeted.

The review used the 
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Guidelines to define a COPD exacerbation as an acute event characterized by “the worsening of a patient’s respiratory symptoms that is beyond normal variation and leads to a change in medication,” the AJMC reports.

Of the studies reviewed, one study showed that its authors demonstrated that the “expression of anti-inflammatory genes was altered by the time of the year -- highly expressed in June, July and August in the northern hemisphere and raised in December, January and February in the southern hemisphere.” Thus, it seems there is a strong correlation for COPD flare ups and environmental factors found in each season.

Additionally, in regard to environmental factors, the authors of the review said that extremes in temperature are typically associated with an increase in morbidity and mortality in the general population. COPD, the reviewers discovered, showed inconsistencies among “a range of study results” in the sample reviewed, reflecting the “complexity of the associations among a variety of environmental factors,” as well as the immune response from the host.

In their review, the authors of the aggregate study said its findings emphasize the need for more research into seasonal CPOD and their effects on those suffering from the illness. In other words, “the biology of a patient in response to seasonality needs to be better understood to provide better treatment and prevention options,” according to the review.

“This seasonal variation in exacerbation incidence has a corresponding effect on hospital admissions in many different healthcare systems and is also associated with an increase in mortality,” the authors said in a statement. “Therefore, a greater understanding of the factors that contribute to these seasonal increases in exacerbation rates should provide opportunities to protect patients and reduce the burden on already-overstretched healthcare systems.

“Research should be undertaken with a clear knowledge of the changing environmental conditions that patients experience,” the authors added. “In this study, we have discussed the factors separately, although, they are all clearly interconnected; importantly, with growing climate extremes, there is a risk that this will impact on seasonal variations in exacerbations rates.”

Click here to read the entire article on AJMC.