What is COPD and who is at risk of getting the lung condition?

IF you're suffering with increased breathlessness and a persistent chesty cough with phlegm then you might have a lung condition.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties, but who is most likely to get it and what are the signs?

Most people who suffer from COPD are middle-aged or older adults who are smokers.

It's caused when the lungs become inflamed, damaged or narrowed and the main cause is smoking.

While it's rare, the condition can also affect people who have never smoked – but you are more likely to have it if you do.

Some cases of the condition could be a result of a genetic problem, or by exposure of harmful fumes or dust.

Many people do not realise they have the condition as the symptoms can start mild before getting gradually worse.

These symptoms can start to limit your activities -but treatment can help you control the condition.

COPD can include conditions such as chronic bronchitis – which is long term inflammation of the airways and emphysema – which is damage to the air sacs in the lungs.

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in May last year, it was revealed that people with the condition have a 60 per cent greater risk of dying from coronavirus.

Those with COPD were also told to shield during the pandemic in order to prevent them getting infected and having serious complications from Covid-19.

What are the symptoms?

Official guidance from the NHS states that there are four main symptoms of COPD.

These are:

  • Increased breathlessness – becoming more apparent when you are active
  • A persistent chesty cough with phlegm – many people will live with this and not suspect COPD as it may feel similar to a smoker's cough
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Constant wheezing

When to get help

Without treatment for COPD symptoms will get worse and most sufferers are likely to experience flare ups – where their symptoms suddenly get worse for short periods of time.

If you have the symptoms listed above and you're over the age of 35 and smoke or used to smoke then you should visit your GP.

COPD can damage your lungs so it's important that you start treatment as soon as possible.

Your GP will be able to assess your condition and can organise a breathing tess to help diagnose COPD or other lung issues such as asthma.

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