How do we know that our patients are breathing normally? We don’t without spirometry.
By Wendy L. Wright, MS, ANP, FNP, FAANP, FAAN and Georg Harnoncourt, CEO, ndd Medical Technologies
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe-- yet many people don't know as much about it as they should. Alarmingly, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. and one person dies every four minutes from this slow developing disease . Twelve million Americans are currently diagnosed with COPD, while an additional 12 million Americans may have the disease and remain undiagnosed . However, there is good news. If COPD is diagnosed early, further worsening of the disease can be prevented and symptoms can be treated.
Even if you've heard of the lung condition, chances are you may think of COPD as something that happens to frequent smokers. Although cigarette smoking contributes to the majority of COPD cases, non-smokers can get it, too, due to factors such as increased genetic risk, childhood infections that predispose them to COPD, and air and occupational exposures.
People with COPD have better control over their condition and better health in general if it is identified early. Precise, early diagnosis along with ongoing monitoring and consistent treatment will slow the progression of the disease and have a significant impact on the quality of life for these patients. Lung screenings can identify COPD before a major loss of lung function occurs, but most people are still diagnosed in a lung function lab. This testing often comes too late when significant, irreversible lung damage has already occurred.