Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder is a fatal disease that is highly preventable, according to Dr. Jeffrey Verhey, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine for Trinity Health who spoke to raise awareness of the condition.
"COPD is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD is one of those diseases that not many people know a lot about, and it is a preventable disease. Most people get it after age 40, and most are those who have been smokers," Verhey said.
"The reason it's diagnosed after age 40 is that it's caused by the cumulative affect of smoke and irritants over time. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop COPD," he added.
Dr. Jeffrey Verhey, a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine, speaks about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease to raise awareness.
Verhey explained that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke may also cause people to develop COPD.
The two conditions that contribute to COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Both conditions affect the lungs in that emphysema causes a loss of lung function; and chronic bronchitis causes mucous glands in the lungs to become over active.
COPD is a progressive disease that occurs gradually. The early symptoms of the disease include a shortness of breath and a chronic cough, escalating to a loss of lung function that makes it difficult for people with the disease to perform simple acts of daily living.
"If you don't stop smoking or exposing your lungs to irritants, it (COPD) progressively causes you to lose more lung function," Verhey said.
"Twenty to 25 percent of people don't know that they have it, and by the time it is diagnosed, people can lose up to 50 percent of their lung function," he added.
There are medications available to treat COPD that open up airways and make breathing easier, though there is no long-term cure for the condition.
"Once you lose lung function, you tend to lose it forever," Verhey said.