Published on November 25th, 2017 | by David Morales0
Health Watch: November is COPD awareness month
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD affects about 24 million Americans, yet about half of those afflicted wait months and sometimes years before receiving a proper diagnosis. COPD is a disease of the lungs that includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both. It is characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing. That is why David Mannino. M.D. helped to launch the COPD Foundation after his retirement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2004. Now he works with patients and COPD experts to bring awareness and understanding of COPD, and outline ways to manage the often-challenging symptoms of COPD, both physically and mentally, and showcase that patients can take a positive, active approach to managing the disease. Up to 80 percent of patients already have moderate to severe COPD when they are diagnosed, and have already lost significant lung capacity. That’s why understanding the severity of the disease at the time of diagnosis is so important in order to receive proper treatment and effectively manage the disease.
Why is it important to raise awareness about this disease?
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and although 16 million people have been diagnosed with it, there are additional millions of people perhaps as many as 11 to 12 million who have evidence of COPD who have not been diagnosed with COPD. It is in fact both a disease that is preventable and treatable and if you don’t know that you have the disease, you clearly can’t get the appropriate treatment for it. So that’s why we’re trying to increase awareness.
How important is it to know the severity of COPD for determining management strategies?
The appropriate management of COPD is a large part based on different ways in which we measure severity. Now certainly all people with COPD should get certain interventions. If they are currently smoking, they should undergo therapy to stop smoking. If they are being exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution, that is something that should be decreased or eliminated. We also aim to be sure that patients are appropriately vaccinated to decrease the risk of respiratory tract infections but the goal of COPD treatment is to both decrease the risk of exacerbations which are events where they get suddenly worse and to improve their symptoms. So, that patients who have symptoms such as shortness of air or wheezing or cough that with our therapy you can decrease or eliminate those symptoms so those are really the main goals and of course we want to be sure that people are exercising to the maximum that they can because that is a way to both improve symptomatology and really to add additional quality of life to a person.
Sean, when were you diagnosed with COPD
So, I was actually diagnosed David about three years ago, but really, I was sick for a couple of years before that. And kind of the thing when you go to get diagnosed, I wish I could do and solve but I can’t now, is I wish I would have made a list of all the weird red flag things that were happening with me. You know getting older like I am, I kept thinking everything was because I was getting older. I’d go for a morning run and I’d come home and I tell my wife “God the air is so thick today I could barely breathe” and she go no it’s the same as yesterday and I didn’t realize I just wrote that off to being old. I play indoor soccer and so I could play for about four minutes hard and then all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe and then I had to drop down to two minutes and you know I’ve come on man I guess we’re getting that time I need to quit.
I’m just getting older and I used to get sick a whole bunch where I have terrible coughing just gross stuff. I don’t mean to gross out your audience but I got to say it but those things I would end up with steroids or antibiotics and you know if you’re ending up on steroids and antibiotics regularly something’s wrong. But I wish I would have written down the dates that I was on them because I was going to different doctors you know we call him doc in the boxes where I’m from where they’ve got a retail outlet and then I might go to another one that was closer to where I was, so I didn’t have a file saying what was wrong. I really needed a file.
You’re still very active and live a fulfilling life: can you tell us what tips you’d share for people with COPD or caregivers to help improve their quality of life?
The biggest thing I could say to somebody is do you want to live in hope or do you want to live in fear? I choose to live in hope! So, every day I wake up and I’m going to do something great today even if I don’t feel like it but here’s a little trick for everybody if you don’t feel like it and you feel terrible and you feel like you’re swimming in mud. In the morning, take 15 minutes and set a timer and feel bad for your 15 minutes and you can have the biggest pity party you ever wanted, but when that dinger goes off you got to get up and go do something. I don’t get to run long distances, but I’ll run for a block and then I walk for a block, run for a block. I still swim and I still cycle. I’m not very fast cycling but I’m still there and able to do it. I’m probably about 80 percent of where I used to be.
What advice would you give to patients and caregivers to encourage the best possible management of their COPD?
I think that they need to be well prepared when they go in to see their physician. You know with the symptoms that they are having and then the expectations of what they would like to be able to do. My patients have many of them. Even though they have severe COPD, are able to live very full lives, our goal of our various interventions is not only to add years to people’s lives but really, years so that they’re able to do many if not all the things that they were able to do before.
Where can the public go for further information or if they know someone with COPD?
What I would recommend is go to the COPD foundation.org and the reason I would go on there is if you just go on in Google COPD you’re going to scare yourself to death go copdfoundation.org. There it’s vetted material to run by good folks. It’s run by the actual foundation and you can get great information there. I think that’s where I’d start if you feel like you can identify with some of the stuff I was saying please try to try the web.