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A Coronavirus Update for the COPD Community

Posted on February 28, 2020   |   
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We understand the COPD community may have questions about the coronavirus, now called COVID19. We want to reinforce that the most important thing people with COPD can do is prevent the spread of respiratory infections with a few simple practices. If you have specific concerns about your individual health circumstances, we encourage you to contact your healthcare professional team directly.

To prevent the spread of respiratory infections following a few simple suggestions may help.

  1. Avoid being close to people who have a respiratory infection like a cold or influenza
  2. Consider switching from handshakes to elbow bump
  3. Wash hands often
  4. When you cannot wash your hands, consider using a hand sanitizer
  5. If you have a respiratory infection, stay home from activities where you may spread the infection-- church, schools, sporting or social events
  6. Cover your nose and mouth if you are coughing from a respiratory infection and help others around to learn to do the same

The CDC has updated its travel warnings. You should avoid nonessential travel to China and South Korea, and consider postponing travel to Italy, Iran, and Japan. For countries outside of this list, please speak directly to your health care team and regularly monitor the CDC site at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html for updated warnings if you are considering international travel.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies

Lung Research at 50: A Q and A with Dr. James Kiley on the 50th year of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and what lies ahead

Posted on February 26, 2020   |   
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is responsible for funding the majority of COPD-related government-supported research. Without the research that NHLBI funds, it would be nearly impossible for other stakeholders to develop new treatments and deliver care that improves health and quality of life. While we will never stop advocating for the NHLBI to invest more in COPD research, their accomplishments and their commitment to meeting the needs of people with COPD is without question.

Throughout 2019, the pulmonary community celebrated a milestone in medical research, the 50th anniversary of the NHLBI. What does the 50th anniversary mean for the COPD community? What does the dedicated team at the NHLBI hope for the future of COPD research? To explore these questions and more, Dr. James Kiley, the Director of NHLBI’s Division of Lung Diseases and was kind enough to participate in our Q and A.

Dr. Kiley touches on the mission of the NHLBI, how research has contributed to the differences in patient’s lives today compared to 50 years ago and more.

We also asked leaders of the COPD Foundation Scientific and Medical team: Dr. Barbara Yawn, Dr. Ruth Tal-Singer and Dr. Byron Thomashow what they are most excited about as we enter the next decade of partnerships with the NHLBI and the research community.

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Categories: Advocacy Education, Resources and Studies Health Policy and COPD

Bronchiectasis: Symptoms and Diagnosis

Posted on February 26, 2020   |   
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In our previous post, we talked about what bronchiectasis is and who can get it. Now we will review some of the symptoms and how it can be diagnosed.

Symptoms

Symptoms of bronchiectasis may include frequent coughing, sputum (mucus) production, fatigue, repeated chest infections, shortness of breath, unexplained fever, chills, sweats, weight loss and in extreme cases, coughing up blood (hemoptysis). There is often no cure for bronchiectasis, but it can be treated.

Diagnosis

Bronchiectasis is often confused with COPD or asthma. In many cases, symptoms are similar, leading to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. When a patient is experiencing respiratory infections that are Severe, Persistent, Unusual or Recurrent (frequent) or “SPUR” (as a reminder tip), healthcare providers should consider if it may be bronchiectasis. The provider can identify additional factors, such as family history, that would suggest added testing, and if a patient should be referred to a pulmonary specialist to help diagnose the issue.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies

NTM Lung Disease: How it is Diagnosed and What you Need to Know

Posted on February 24, 2020   |   
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In our first blog post we learned about nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) and the disease it causes, NTM lung disease. Like COPD, NTM lung disease is a chronic, progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. Common symptoms of NTM lung disease are shortness of breath, fever, weight loss, chronic cough, fatigue, and chest pain.i Some of these symptoms can also be found in COPD, bronchiectasis, and asthma, the very conditions that increase the risk for getting NTM lung disease.ii This increased risk exists because damage from these conditions can make it easier for NTM bacteria to infect the lungs. All of this can make diagnosing NTM lung disease complex.

Sometimes this challenge may cause a delay in diagnosis and treatment. Untreated symptoms can get worse and cause more damage to the lungs. This means that a delay in the diagnosis of NTM lung disease can make the condition worse.iii Even so, the good news is that NTM lung disease can be successfully diagnosed and that treatment options are available.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Health Policy and COPD Tips for Healthy Living

Why is it important to use your COPD inhalers correctly and regularly?

Posted on January 29, 2020   |   
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Regular and correct use of inhaled medicines helps control symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, your medicines will only work if you use your inhaler properly. Correct inhaler use makes sure that the right amount of medicine reaches your lungs. However, many different types of inhalers are available, and each requires a different technique. It is helpful if your doctor or a medical professional shows you how to use the inhaler prescribed to you.

What is meant by proper inhaler technique?

Your ability to use your inhaler properly, with the correct breathing technique, can affect your lung health.1 This is referred to as “inhaler technique” and can differ from inhaler to inhaler. Using the wrong inhaler technique means that less medicine reaches your lungs.1,2 This can make you feel worse and put you at a greater risk of hospitalization.1 There are two main ways to take your inhaled medicine—using an inhaler or a nebulizer. Inhalers are small devices that can be held in your hand and are easy to carry.3 Three basic types of inhalers are available—a pressurized metered-dose inhaler (pMDI), a dry-powder inhaler (DPI), and a slow-/soft-mist inhaler (SMI).3 Nebulizers are machines that are usually larger than inhalers. Many nebulizers are not easy to carry around,3 but some new ones have been made to carry with you.3,4 You probably use one or more of these inhalers or nebulizers to take your COPD medicines. This piece will focus on the non-nebulized inhalers.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

Bronchiectasis: The Phantom Menace

Posted on January 13, 2020   |   
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You may know that COPD is an “umbrella term” describing progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma and chronic bronchitis.* But there is another lung condition that is often overlooked because of its similarity to COPD: Bronchiectasis (brong-ke-EK-ta-sis). To help raise more awareness of this condition and who it may be impacting, we’ll be sharing six posts over the upcoming year.

What is bronchiectasis?

Bronchiectasis is a disease of the small airways that leads to damage of the airway walls. This makes it difficult for people to clear out mucus from the lungs by coughing. One of the key differences from chronic bronchitis is that in bronchiectasis, the inner diameter of the airway can actually get wider. That may seem like a good thing but it isn’t. With scarring and thickening of the airway walls, widening of the airways is what makes it harder to clear out mucus. When mucus is not cleared out bacteria can start growing, which can lead to severe and repeated infections.

How severe?

Some people live with both COPD and bronchiectasis and don’t know it. One study found that in one year alone, 93% of these people had at least two health events (or exacerbations) like needing antibiotics, or a hospitalization relating to respiratory infections. Frequent events often result in major flare-ups in symptoms, and can lead to permanent loss of lung function, increase in additional symptoms, higher rates of disability or even loss of life. Even in those who did not experience frequent flare-ups, 90% of those who had pneumonia were found to have some bronchiectasis.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies

Diagnostic decisions: what is spirometry and why is it important?

Posted on January 09, 2020   |   
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What is spirometry?

Spirometry is a common breathing test that assesses how well your lungs work. The test measures how quickly and how much air you can breathe in and out.1 It is part of the testing done with full pulmonary function testing which may include other assessments (see below). During normal breathing, air flows in and out of your lungs freely. However, people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a hard time breathing out, and therefore too much air stays in their lungs.2 This is known as “air trapping” and is one of the causes of feeling short of breath.2 Spirometry is an important test that should be done in addition to asking about your symptoms and medical history when COPD is diagnosed.2 Spirometry can help decide what medicines you will take and it can be used to follow your lung health over time.2

What happens during spirometry?

On the day of your test, your doctor may ask that you do not take your COPD medicine, do not wear tight clothing, and do not eat a large meal for two to four hours before your test. When you arrive, a person in your doctor’s office will explain the test and what you need to do. The test takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete.1 Here is what to expect during your spirometry test1,3:

  • You will be seated upright in a chair, and a clip will be placed on your nose to keep you from breathing through your nose.
  • With a mouthpiece connected to the spirometer, you will be asked to take a deep breath in, so that your lungs are completely filled with air, and then to breathe out as hard and fast as you can for six to eight seconds—until your lungs are emptied as much as possible.
  • You will be asked to repeat these steps at least three times to make sure a that the test result is right.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

What does it mean when COPD symptoms are controlled? Part 2

Posted on December 17, 2019   |   
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As a person living with and being treated for COPD you have your own “normal” (or baseline) symptoms, which can change in type and severity over time as your lungs age.1,2 Knowing your baseline symptom level using the COPD Foundation patient app3 allows you and your clinician to understand when the symptoms are getting worse or becoming uncontrolled (See: What does it mean when COPD symptoms are “controlled”? Part 1 for more information). Following your symptoms and what you can do daily may also encourage you to try and improve your ‘normal,’ giving you a better quality of life.

How are you affected over time with the changes in COPD symptoms?

Many of us cut down on our activity level, whether we realize it or not, to avoid certain COPD symptoms like feeling short of breath.4 Cutting down on physical activity like avoiding stairs or even avoid getting up to get a glass of water can actually work against you - decreased activity can lower your ability to do the things you want to do. It can also increase the chances of having a COPD exacerbation or even being hospitalized.5 Exacerbations or COPD “attacks” lead to more decrease in activity, more shortness of breath and then to greater difficulty doing daily activities, and loss of fitness.6

What is the impact of an exacerbation of COPD?

During a COPD flare up or an acute exacerbation, symptoms worsen, and breathing becomes even more difficult. Exacerbations decrease your overall health, comfort, and happiness (also known as quality of life) and can speed up lung function decline.7 Also, exacerbations can increase your risk of future exacerbation or hospitalizations, and can even be life threatening.7 So, all possible steps should be taken to prevent symptoms from becoming uncontrolled (Suggested reading: Avoiding exacerbations and pneumonia; Staying healthy and avoiding exacerbations; Staying healthy and avoiding Pneumonia).

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

The COPD National Action Plan: Where are we now and where are we headed?

Posted on December 16, 2019   |   
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The COPD National Action Plan, released in 2017, is a guide to how we can improve COPD outcomes in the United States. On November 13th, the community came together to share the progress that has been made against the Plan’s goals and to discuss how we collaborate and track progress moving into the next decade.

The COPD Foundation team was joined by five advocates who ensured the perspectives of those most affected by COPD were heard throughout the discussions. The day was broken into two parts, a morning session full of informative presentations from federal partners, advocacy organizations and health systems, and afternoon discussion sessions to brainstorm on how to effectively collaborate and track progress moving forward.

The day started with Dr. Tony Punturieri from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) overview of their priorities and areas of progress such as the groundbreaking results coming from the COPDGene Study. Dr. Punturieri also discussed progress in understanding the role of smoking in COPD development, in dispelling the notion that COPD treatment is a one-size-fits-all approach, and in pushing early-stage disease-modifying research. He noted that they feel “the future and the present for COPD is bright.”

The next panel of speakers from federal agencies highlighted the progress made possible by the National Action Plan and your advocacy efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented new data on the burden of COPD and how they are using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data to understand factors that may be associated with COPD outcomes in different areas of the country.

We dedicated much of the first years of our advocacy efforts to getting COPD questions on the BRFSS. Hundreds of patients contacted their state officials to make this happen. The results have yielded treasure troves of data about the burden of COPD in different geographic areas, but that isn’t all it can do. As more attention is focused on COPD in the public health space, the BRFSS COPD questions can now be layered with other data that show patterns of smoking history, comorbid diseases, and other health risk factors. The more we make COPD a part of the conversation in other health priority areas, the greater likelihood it lands on the radar of state and federal agency partners and the greater likelihood we can reach affected individuals.

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Categories: Advocacy Health Policy and COPD

How much do you know about NTM lung disease and it’s connection to COPD?

Posted on December 05, 2019   |   
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How much do you know about nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) lung disease and how people living with COPD can be more susceptible to the disease? These informative new videos will help you learn more about NTM lung disease and what steps you can do to limit exposure. Our expert speaker, Dr. Pamela McShane, provides valuable insights on the causes and signs of NTM lung disease as well as information about how those with the disease can participate in a research registry designed to increase knowledge of NTM lung disease.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Health Policy and COPD Tips for Healthy Living

What does it mean when COPD symptoms are controlled? Part 1

Posted on December 03, 2019   |   
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is not a single condition1 but includes emphysema (damage to the air sacs of the lung) and chronic bronchitis (chronic cough with mucus production caused by inflammation of the breathing tubes) and leads to shortness of breath.2 Symptoms of COPD vary from person to person and from day to day or by the time of day3 and can include difficulty in breathing (shortness of breath), increased mucus, frequent coughing, chest tightness, and wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing out.2

What does it mean when your COPD symptoms are controlled?

Symptoms are considered under control, or stable, when they are about the same day to day, and allow you to do what is normal for you—functioning at your best.2 Understanding what is “normal” for you—meaning when symptoms are under good control—can be assessed by following your day-to-day symptoms using the COPD Foundation patient app.4 (Suggested reading: The COPD Pocket Consultant Guide Mobile App) Knowing what is normal can help you and your doctor or nurse decide when you are in control or when things are getting worse or out of control. This helps you know if a visit is needed to receive more or different treatments. (See our upcoming post What does it mean when COPD symptoms are “controlled”? Part 2 for more information about baseline COPD symptoms and how to improve your ‘normal.')

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies Tips for Healthy Living

NTM Lung Disease: What it is and What you Need to Know

Posted on November 05, 2019   |   
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If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know that it is most often a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. You know it is a chronic, progressive disease with shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest. However, you may not have heard, or know much, about NTM lung disease. It is also a chronic, progressive lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. In this blog series, you will learn more about NTM lung disease.

What is NTM lung disease?

Nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease is a serious infection caused by bacteria. When it gets into the lungs, NTM bacteria* can invade the cells that are there to protect the lungs from infection. The job of these special cells is to find and eat harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. When this defense system is invaded, it can’t do its job, and that can lead to chronic lung infections and pneumonia. NTM reproduces rapidly and may be difficult to treat. People with NTM lung disease may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, weight loss, chronic cough, fatigue, and chest pain. Those with NTM lung disease can become seriously ill and may require lengthy hospital stays to manage their condition.
*In this blog from this point on we will refer to “NTM lung disease” when talking about the disease itself, and to simply “NTM” when we talk about the bacteria that causes NTM lung disease.

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Categories: Education, Resources and Studies

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