Breathe easier and seek treatment on World COPD Day

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People with breathing difficulties in Sandwell and West Birmingham are being called upon to take action on World COPD Day to ensure that their condition is treated.

NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is supporting World COPD Day, which takes place on 21 November 2018 to raise awareness of the condition and encourage sufferers to take action.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, describes a group of lung conditions that make it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have been narrowed.

The disease kills 30,000 people a year in the UK, just 5,000 less than the UK's biggest cancer killer, lung cancer. Yet there is far less awareness of COPD and its devastating effects.

It's estimated that two million people in the UK have COPD but are currently undiagnosed. This means they can't get the support to give them the quality of life they deserve.

The early stages of COPD are often unrecognised, partly because many individuals discount the symptoms, such as breathlessness, chronic cough, and bringing up phlegm, as a normal part of getting older or an expected consequence of cigarette smoking.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD. Smokers can often dismiss the early signs of COPD as a 'smoker's cough' but if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life. Stopping smoking will reduce the risk of this and other diseases.

If you have been diagnosed with a long term condition including a lung, heart or kidney condition, you are entitled to a free flu vaccination to protect yourself from the virus and the risks associated if you catch it. Don’t risk it; get protected from flu this year.

Dr Nick Harding, Chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:

"Many of our residents have COPD and don't even know it. They're struggling with their symptoms and a lower quality of life. Their condition is progressing quickly because they’re not receiving treatment. Many people think that COPD can only affect smokers. However, up to 20 per cent of people with COPD have been affected by non-smoking-related causes.

"Of the 3 million people estimated to be living with COPD in the UK, a staggering 2 million are living with the condition undiagnosed. So, on World COPD Day we are encouraging people who are feeling unusually breathless, have a persistent cough, excess mucus or wheezing to contact their GP surgery.

"Annual flu vaccinations have a major role to play in bringing down the number of preventable deaths and hospital admissions that occur every year in patients with chronic lung diseases. We would urge everyone with COPD to get protected with this year’s flu vaccine which is available from their GP or Pharmacy."

People who are experiencing breathing difficulties can take the British Lung Foundation's online breath test. It can help them decide if it's time to see their GP. The test is available at https://bit.ly/2RbDeEf