4 Myths About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Debunked

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4 Myths About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Debunked

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of death among Americans, affecting millions of men and women. Yet despite its prevalence, COPD is still surrounded by myths and misunderstandings that can wind up delaying care.

A leading family medicine doctor in Lakeland, Florida, Sergio B. Seoane, MD, offers patient-centered therapies for COPD, with a focus on reducing symptoms and improving every patient’s quality of life. In this post, learn four of the most common COPD myths that could be interfering with your understanding of this serious disease.

1. COPD only affects people who smoke (or used to smoke)

One of the most common myths about COPD is that it only affects people who smoke or who used to smoke. While it’s true smoking is the primary cause of COPD, the fact is, people who don’t smoke can also develop the disease

In fact, it’s estimated that about 25% of people diagnosed with COPD have never smoked. Other factors that play a role in COPD include:

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to airborne pollutants 
  • Genetic factors

Exposure to fumes and pollutants at some workplaces can also increase your risk of COPD. Understanding your own risk factors can help you get medical treatment as soon as possible.

2. COPD is “just” shortness of breath

This is another myth with some roots in truth: Shortness of breath (dyspnea) is, in fact, a common symptom of COPD. But COPD can cause lots of other symptoms, including excess mucus production, chronic cough, fatigue, wheezing, and chest tightness or pressure.

What’s more, the shortness of breath that happens with COPD is actually a sign of a serious problem with your lungs. As the disease progresses, you can develop severe breathing problems and life-threatening complications that require hospitalization. If you have chronic shortness of breath, it’s important not to ignore it, but to seek a medical evaluation right away to determine the cause.

3. There is no treatment for COPD

While it’s true there is currently no cure for COPD, there are treatments that can help slow the progression of the disease and vastly improve your quality of life. The key is to work closely with your physician to develop and maintain a treatment plan that’s focused on your unique needs.

Today, there are a lot of options for COPD management. Many people benefit from a combination of medications, oxygen therapy, and lifestyle changes focused on optimizing their lung health and easing their breathing symptoms through pulmonary rehabilitation. Early intervention and a proactive approach to care play important roles in helping you enjoy a healthier, more comfortable, more active lifestyle.

4. COPD only affects the lungs

COPD does primarily affect your lungs, but it can take a toll on the rest of your body, too. COPD prevents your lungs from taking in and distributing oxygen, which is necessary for every cell and every organ in your body. 

Without proper management, long-term inflammation associated with COPD can lead to complications like heart disease, neuromuscular problems, and skeletal defects, as well as unintentional weight loss. Plus, COPD can take an emotional toll, as well, contributing to anxiety and depression. Once again, early intervention and taking an active role in managing your disease can help.

Don’t ignore breathing symptoms

If you have shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, or other respiratory symptoms, don’t ignore them. COPD and other respiratory diseases can cause life-threatening complications, and early medical care is essential for your health and well-being.

To learn more about COPD and how we can help you manage it, call 863-644-2204 or request an appointment online with Dr. Seoane today.