World COPD Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to improve awareness and care of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) around the world. World COPD Day 2014 takes place on November 19 around the theme“It’s Not Too Late.”

Alicia Jacobs, MD, a family medicine physician, is Vice Chair of Clinical Operations in Family Medicine at The University of Vermont Medical Center and Medical Director for the Colchester Family Practice. She is also an associate professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.

Alicia Jacobs, MD, a family medicine physician, is Vice Chair of Clinical Operations in Family Medicine at The University of Vermont Medical Center and Medical Director for the Colchester Family Practice. She is also an associate professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.

What is COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a chronic lung condition that results from smoking or exposure to high levels of secondhand smoke over your lifetime.   Symptoms may include wheezing, chronic cough, and just getting short of breath when active. Generally, COPD causes bronchitis that can become chronic. Damage to the structure of your lungs may also cause emphysema. Both chronic bronchitis with increased mucous production and emphysema may make you more susceptible to pneumonia and other lung symptoms and conditions. There is no cure for COPD though it may be treated (keep reading to learn how!).

Why does it matter?

COPD is a growing cause of death in the United States. In fact, it is the third leading cause of death in our country.  It can cause symptoms and exacerbations which may severely limit physical function. In addition, patients who have COPD also have a much higher rate of heart disease.

Who is at risk?

Risk factors include:

  • Smoke exposure: cigarette, secondhand, pipe, cigar and marijuana smoking all can increase your risk.
  • Smoking with asthma: The risk is even higher if you smoke when you already have this chronic airway disease
  • Dust and chemical occupational exposure: Long-term, workplace exposure to chemical fumes, vapors and dusts can irritate and inflame your lungs
  • Age: Most people with COPD are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin
  • Inherited disorder: it is rare, but some people with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, an uncommon genetic condition, can develop COPD

How is it treated?

COPD is treated mostly with inhalers as well as regular exercise and pulmonary rehabilitation. In addition, quitting smoking is essential to slowing the progression of damage to the lungs. The University of Vermont Medical Center offers a quit smoking program.

What is the University of Vermont Medical Center doing to improve COPD care?

All of our Primary Care offices, which are Patient Centered Medical Homes, now have spirometers in order to do the lung function testing needed to diagnosis and follow COPD. We work closely with our Pediatric and Adult Pulmonary specialists to be sure that patients with COPD can access the right care they need, in the right place, at the right time.

Learn more about COPD diagnosis and treatment.

Alicia Jacobs, MD, a family medicine physician, is Vice Chair of Clinical Operations in Family Medicine at The University of Vermont Medical Center and Medical Director for the Colchester Family Practice. She is also an associate professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. 

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