Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Is Becoming Widespread

A study in the September issue of The Lancet suggests that the the global rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is higher than previous estimates have suggested and is becoming more prevalent as the world's population ages. The researchers believe that the solution to this rising burden on health care is through cost effective prevention. The researchers found that smoking is the biggest risk factor for the disease, followed by exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution. Illnesses and unsafe working conditions are additional risk factors for developing chronic lung disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a blanket term for a range of lung diseases that limit airflow through the lungs. The World Health Organization no longer uses the terms 'chronic bronchitis' and 'emphysema' because they are now included in the chronic lung disease diagnosis.

The disease is found to be the fifth leading cause of death around the globe and symptoms include feeling breathless, excessive sputum, and a chronic cough. The World Health Organization estimates nearly 3 million people have died from chronic lung disease in 2005 and that currently 80 million have moderate to severe symptoms worldwide.

The research team analyzed medical information concerning nearly 9,500 people aged 40 and over from 12 different countries. The study found that overall lung disease prevalence was 10.1 percent and the risk of developing the disease doubled every 10 years above age 40.

There is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and the authors advise that people cut their risk by not smoking, avoiding polluted atmospheres, and wearing a mask when working in hazardous conditions.


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