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World COPD Day 2019

World COPD Day 2019

Organised by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to raise awareness by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and improve the care COPD patients receive worldwide.

It’s one of the most common respiratory disease in Ireland and around 110,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with COPD. However, it’s suspected there are close to 200,000 people living with the disease who are undiagnosed, due to people dismissing the symptoms as a ‘smoker’s cough’.

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstruction/blockages in the airways.

With COPD, the airways become narrowed and inflamed due to irritation. As time passes, your air sacs can get permanently damaged and breathing becomes increasingly difficult. This is due to personal changes in the lungs where the walls of the airways become thicker and mucous secretion increases. Damage to the delicate walls of the air sacs of the lungs reduce their elasticity and leads to difficulty breathing, especially after exerting oneself.


Symptoms of COPD don’t usually appear until significant lung damage occurs, and they worsen over time. This lung damage could be due to several factors such as smoking.

COPD symptoms don’t usually become noticeable until after the age of 35 and they can include:

· Shortness of breath while exercising or moving around

· Excessive and persistent coughing with phlegm

· Wheezing

· Recurring chest infections

Symptoms are exacerbated in winter and flare-ups are extremely common during the winter months. Flare-ups are when symptoms are particularly bad and are one of the most common reasons why people are admitted to hospital in Ireland.


Certain factors increase the likelihood of COPD. These can include:

· Smoking

o The main cause of COPD and at least 80% of those who have been diagnosed with COPD are smokers.

o The smoke inflames the lining of the airways and become permanently damaged. This damage can’t be reversed.

· Passive smoking

o Exposure to others smoking increases the risk of COPD.

· Dust & Further Irritations

o Certain types of dust, chemicals and fumes have been linked to the development of COPD and inhaling these can increase your risk.

o Long-term exposure to fumes and chemicals due to occupation can be another cause.

· Relations & Genetics

o Having a brother or sister with severe COPD increases your chances of developing COPD.

o A research study showed that people brothers or sisters with severe COPD were at a higher risk at developing COPD than smokers who don’t.

o There is also a rare genetic tendency to develop COPD.


COPD may result in further problems, such as:

· Respiratory infections – you are more at risk of catching colds, flus and pneumonia when you have COPD. This can worsen COPD symptoms considerably and antibiotics from your GP may be required.

· Lung Cancer – you are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer if you have COPD and quitting smoking reduces this risk.

· Pulmonary Hypertension – COPD can cause high blood pressure in the arteries that supply your lungs.

Diagnosing COPD

Getting diagnosed for COPD early means you can receive the appropriate care and reduces the chances of deterioration in the lungs. If you are concerned and think you have COPD, ask your doctor about it and let them know of any symptoms you may have.

Doctors use a breathing machine called a spirometer. It measures the amount of air you can breathe out in one second (called the forced expiratory volume), as well as the total amount of air you can breathe out (called the forced vital capacity).

Treating COPD

Stop Smoking:

This is the main way for COPD symptoms to decrease and is the only proven way to reduce the rate of decline of lung function.

Stopping smoking won’t remove any damage already done but can prevent further harm.

If COPD is diagnosed in its early stages, this may the only necessary form of treatment and no medication such as, inhalers would be required.


Inhalers are sometime prescribed by your GP for COPD. Your doctor or pharmacist will show you how to use these if you are unsure. Also, a spacer device may be prescribed also to increase the amount of medication reaching your lungs if you are having issues using your inhaler.

There are many types of inhalers used for COPD and they include:

· Short-acting bronchodilators – delivers a small dose of medicine straight to your lungs to relax and open your airways e.g. Ventolin.

· Long-acting bronchodilators – work in a similar way to short-acting bronchodilators, however, each dose lasts up to 12 hours e.g. Serevent

· Steroid Inhalers – also known as corticosteroid inhalers. They reduce inflammation in the airways. If you are still feeling breathless while using the long-acting bronchodilator, your doctor may prescribe you this e.g. Beclazone.

Further treatments may become necessary such as antibiotics for chest infections associated with COPD, nebulisers in severe cases may be prescribed if other inhalers have not worked and surgery is an option in certain cases of COPD depending on the severity of it.

Always talk to your doctor about treatment options for COPD and what possibilities are available in your circumstance.

Preventing COPD

Quitting smoking is the single most effective way to prevent COPD and reduce your risk of getting the condition. If you are having issues with quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking medicine such as nicotine replacement therapy (patches and gum). Go to quit.ie to learn more about how to quit or talk to your pharmacist to learn about what possibilities are available to you.

Avoiding smoke, fumes and chemicals can also prevent COPD as these can irritate your airways and long-term exposure can increase your chances of developing COPD.

For more information on COPD, call into one of our pharmacies and talk with a pharmacist to get advice and help on how to deal with symptoms or whether you should go to your GP. Use our PharmaChat service to get in contact with a pharmacist immediately and they can help you with any queries you may have.

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