One of the most common diseases that truckers develop is actually preventable. COPD, short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases, which include: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (irreversible) asthma, and severe bronchiectasis. Other names for COPD are Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COLD) and Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (CLRD).
Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD for Americans. 20-30 percent of smokers develop significant cases of COPD. Individuals are all different in their sensitivity to smoke. However, COPD can develop in people who have never smoked and especially those who are exposed to second-hand smoke.
Individuals with COPD begin to experience increased breathlessness and a cough that doesn’t go away. Both of these signs are not normal signs of aging; that’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about taking a spirometry test (breathing test) to measure the health of your lungs if you have any of these additional symptoms:
- Chronic coughing (both with and without sputum),
- Tightness in your chest.
If you have any of the symptoms above, the first step is to take the COPD Risk Screener at www.drive4copd.org/screener. The screener - a brief, five-question survey – can help you determine if you are at risk of developing COPD. Take those results to your doctor for a possible diagnosis so a management program can begin. Remember that the earlier one begins treatment, the better it is for your lungs and for maintaining the quality of your breathing.
After being diagnosed with COPD, it is important to be tested for an inherited or genetic condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1). Alpha-1 is not a disease. It is a disorder that increases the risk of having COPD, as well as other conditions. Alpha-1 is the major genetic risk factor for COPD at this time. Studies are underway to find other genetic factors that can increase the risk of having COPD.
Diagnosing Alpha-1 requires only a simple blood test. If you have Alpha-1, or if other causes have played an important role in the development of your lung disease, you may require treatments targeted at these other conditions. (For more information about Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, visit the Alpha-1 Foundation’s website at www.alphaone.org or AlphaNet at www.alphanet.org.
The COPD Foundation’s DRIVE4COPD Campaign, the largest public health initiative aimed at raising awareness and taking action in support of COPD, is focused on promoting early diagnosis through risk screening. Take the DRIVE Risk Screener at www.drive4copd.org/screener. To date, more than 2.6 million Americans have assessed their risk for COPD through this screener.
If you are a smoker, you know you should quit. Getting COPD is just one more reason why you should quit smoking today. Stay healthy out there!
For more information on the COPD Foundation or DRIVE4COPD, please visit www.copdfoundation.org.