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    Attention needed: the lung disease you may not know you have

    Lung disease is the third leading cause of death and impacts more than 24 million people in the United States, yet many people with the disease are unaware they may have it. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe and can cause serious, long-term disability. More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD in the United States and experts estimate that just as many are undiagnosed. COPD goes by other names including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

    Common COPD symptoms include:

    *Constant coughing (smoker’s cough)

    *Wheezing

    *Excess sputum

    *Shortness of breath during typical daily activities

    *An inability to take deep breaths

    *Feeling like you can’t breathe

    Often, warning signs are brushed off as complications from getting older, a cold or allergies. Currently, there is no cure for COPD but it is highly treatable. Being aware that COPD is a serious lung disease is critical to helping those affected by the disease begin to manage it properly.

    “Only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths than COPD,” says James P. Kiley, Ph.D., Director, Division of Lung Diseases, at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. “We all need to do our part to ensure more people become familiar with COPD. Early diagnosis and treatment can help people with COPD improve their symptoms, cut down the flare-ups of the disease and get back to the things they love doing.”  

    A first step to getting better is to discuss COPD symptoms with those at risk, loved ones and health care providers. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of COPD to recognize the disease early. If you or someone you know shows signs of COPD, encourage them to have a conversation with their health care provider and request a non-invasive breathing test called spirometry. The earlier COPD is diagnosed, the better the options for treatment and improved quality of life.

    For more information and resources about COPD, visit COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov, NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program.


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