Today is World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Day.
Organized by the Global Initiative for
Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), it is a day to raise
awareness and improve care of COPD, which is a group of lung
diseases where progressive damage to the airways compromises the
ability to breathe. COPD is the
fourth leading cause of death worldwide and the third leading cause
of death in the United States. This number is projected to increase
in the coming years, especially because many believe that COPD is
Although genetic and environmental factors contribute to COPD,
smoking remains the
predominant reason for developing COPD. There is no cure for
COPD, but treatment options can help alleviate symptoms like
shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.
smoking cessation is essential to managing COPD. Yet, for many
patients it may be difficult to quit
smoking, recover from
smoking relapses, and permanently quit
smoking. The struggle to quit smoking is compounded by the
stigma surrounding COPD. For smokers, this stigma derives from
the perception of COPD as a disease that is preventable,
self-inflicted, and aggravated by actions (i.e., continued smoking)
that are under the patient's control.
As a result, patients with COPD often struggle with feelings of
guilt for causing or worsening their condition, embarrassment for
limitations on day-to-day physical activities, and shame for
needing to explain their diagnosis when they cannot pass as healthy
Although patients with COPD may create challenges for providers
because of noncompliance with smoking cessation or other
treatments, it is necessary to confront the stigma surrounding COPD
to elicit long-lasting behavioral changes in patients. Confronting
and overcoming addiction may be problematic for those who lack social support.
Positive and supportive messaging--encouraging open dialogue and
positive changes--can be effective in helping smokers who have
combined with other strategies.
The theme this year for World COPD Day--"It's Not Too
Late"--promotes actions that providers and patients can take at any
stage of COPD diagnosis to better manage COPD. This theme reflects
the need for maintaining a positive and supportive tone around
managing COPD and focusing on what can be done to treat COPD rather
than fixating on the lifestyle decisions that caused the
It's not too late--not for patients who are trying to live a
healthy life, nor for doctors who are trying to more effectively
talk to their patients about managing COPD.