Lung Foundation Australia estimates at least one in seven Australians over the age of 40 has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which means they suffer shortness of breath or some other obstruction to their breathing. In around half of these instances, many will be unaware that they have the condition at all.
It’s entirely possible you – or a loved one – may have COPD without realising it. Today we’d like to ask the Starts at 60 community an important question: are you aware of all the symptoms and risks?
It’s not always easy to tell, because some of the symptoms of COPD are similar to other conditions. Many can be mistaken for signs of “getting old”. As such, they can often go ignored.
Unfortunately, COPD can remain undetected until significant lung damage has been done – potentially leading to hospitalisation and a huge impact on your quality of life.
If you are a smoker or frequently exposed to other irritants like second-hand smoke, air pollution or fumes, you have a higher risk of developing COPD. However, 20 per cent of those diagnosed with the illness have never smoked..
While only a doctor can diagnose COPD (with a simple test called spirometry), there are warning signs of the disease you can look out for, such a shortness of breath and a persistent cough with phlegm and production of mucus.
COPD cannot be cured, but there is a lot you can do to maintain quality of life. Lung Foundation Australia has many resources available for you and your family to help manage your disease.
Regular exercise and annual influenza vaccinations will help to keep you feeling well and out of hospital.
Unfortunately, people who live with COPD often suffer from a flare up of their symptoms, which is known as an exacerbation. It is very important to be aware of any change in symptoms and get to the doctor quickly to get help.
If you (or someone you love) has COPD, look out for the following signs of en exacerbation:
- coughing more than usual
- finding it more difficult to breathe than normal
- feeling more tired than usual
- coughing up more phlegm/mucus (or finding that phlegm/mucus that has changed in colour)
Don’t hesitate if you recognise a change in symptoms. Get to the doctor quickly and avoid a trip to hospital.
Have you (or a loved one) ever noticed symptoms like these? And if so: have you spoken to your GP?
This post is sponsored by Lung Foundation Australia. It was written as we believe it delivers valuable health insights into a subject important to the Starts at 60 community. For more information about COPD, please click here.