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COPD

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This term contains two key words that define the disease. The term obstructive means that the disease leads to a narrowing of the airways, which cannot be fully reversed by treatment. Once the changes underlying this disease have occurred, they persist livelong and even progress in most cases. This characteristic is reflected by the term "chronic".

COPD is one of the most frequent diseases worldwide. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated in 2007 about 210 mio people were affected worldwide. And the incidence is expected to rise further.

Typical symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath, cough and sputum production. Daily cough is often the first symptom of the disease. In the beginning it mainly occurs in the morning, but in the course of time it is getting more frequent and severe. The cough is associated to increased sputum production. In early stages, shortness of breath is noticed only upon exertion, e.g. when climbing stairs or cycling. In advanced stages, patients are breathless even at rest and have the feeling of not being able to get enough air. Further possible symptoms are sounds during exhalation and chest tightness.

There are several risk factors favouring the development of COPD, the most important one being smoking. However, there are also patients affected with COPD who have never smoked, underlining the role of other risk factors, eg genetic predisposition.

(Source: adapted from www.lungeninformationsdienst.de)

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