Smokers at risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

CHRONIC Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term which describes long-term lung conditions that progressively worsen over time.

This is due to a reduction of air flow in the airways resulting in shortness of breath.

The most common conditions involved in COPD are chronic asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Some people may suffer from one or a combination of these conditions.

It is a condition that cannot be cured or reversed but it can be treated and managed.

In Australia COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in men and the sixth most common in women.

There are many risk factors for COPD, but the leading cause of COPD is smoking.

This is irrespective of whether the person is a current smoker or has quit smoking. About half of all smokers will develop a breathing problem and 15-20% will have a severe lung condition.

Long-term exposure to chemicals, dust or fumes within the workplace or at home can also put people at risk of developing COPD.

Some genetic factors can result in the development of COPD, but this is rare.

Common symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath - maybe while walking or going upstairs, a new or a changed cough, increased mucus production, and wheezing and tightness of the chest.

In the early stages of COPD some people may not show any symptoms at all and COPD may be detected only through tests.

In the end stages of COPD however, simple everyday activities may leave people breathless such as walking around the house and showering.

Shortness of breath is caused by narrowing of the air passages in the lungs.

In the lungs there are thousands of air passages called bronchial tubules and in COPD they become narrower, making it harder to breathe.

Medications prescribed for COPD help to open these air passages to help make breathing easier and decrease breathlessness.

COPD can be managed through medication and through lifestyle.

Because smoking is the biggest risk factor for COPD, quitting smoking will reduce the risk, and if already diagnosed with COPD it will help improve the management of symptoms.

There are many options for quitting smoking, from prescription medication to over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy such as gum and patches.

Smokers are usually more successful at quitting if they have adequate support, so it is best to involve your doctor or pharmacist.

Exercise and a healthy diet are important for general health and wellbeing, as well as for the management of COPD.

Talk to your local pharmacy or drop in and see our friendly staff at Bundaberg Pharmacist Advice, 128 Bourbong St.

In store we have a free COPD screening clinic conducted by our pharmacists, to measure lung function and identify people at risk of COPD.

 Some information supplied by the Lung Foundation of Australia and The Asthma Foundation of Australia.

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