World COPD Day 2018 – Never too early, never too late

The Union is supporting World COPD Day to raise awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and improve COPD care throughout the world.

World COPD Day, organised by Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), a fellow member of the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), takes place today with the theme ‘Never too early, never too late’. The theme draws attention to the fact that COPD can originate early in life, therefore, early diagnosis and intervention is key, but also as a treatable disease it is never too late for diagnosis and treatment. 

COPD is a preventable disease that causes breathlessness, chronic sputum production and coughing, there are 251 million current cases of COPD in the world.  COPD is currently the 3rd leading cause of death globally and is highly prevalent in low resource countries. Exposure to tobacco smoke and other inhaled toxic particles and gases are the main risk factors for COPD, although recent research has identified that lung development before and after birth can also increase the risk of COPD later in life.

“The early stages of COPD are often unrecognised. This is partly because they are not considered in infancy and, partly because many older individuals discount their symptoms such as breathlessness, chronic cough, and bringing up phlegm as a normal part of getting older or an expected consequence of cigarette smoking.”, states Prof. Alvar Agusti (Spain), Chair of the GOLD Board of Directors.

COPD is diagnosed with a breathing test called spirometry. This test is easy to perform, non-invasive and painless, it only takes a few minutes. Finding cases early on is very important to prevent disease progression, and this approach may reduce the burden of disease and mortality rates in future. Increasing public knowledge of COPD, specifically prevention strategies, is enormously important. People with chronic breathlessness of any type, or cough and sputum production should have a spirometry test.

The Union advocates for greater awareness of lung health and supports international initiatives to reduce the burden of COPD, including smoking cessation programmes, fighting against both indoor and outdoor air pollution, as well as examining childhood disadvantage factors (such as parental smoking, lung infections and uncontrolled asthma).

Although there is no current cure for COPD, action can take place at every stage of the disease. It is never too early to diagnose lung dysfunction and intervene; and it is never too late to stop smoking and start fighting the disease and its consequences.  Currently available therapies can alleviate the symptoms of breathlessness, cough and sputum production, and disease flare-ups.