COPD

Updated 02 October 2014

Who gets COPD?

COPD is primarily a disease of the elderly. It affects adults over 45 years of age, and rates as one of the major causes of death world-wide.

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As it takes many years for the inflammation in the lungs to have an effect, COPD is primarily a disease of the elderly. It affects adults over 45 years of age, and rates as one of the major causes of death world-wide. The World Health Organisation rates COPD as the fourth most common cause of death throughout the world. An alarming rise in the prevalence of this condition, particularly among women, indicates that mortality and morbidity (illness) due to COPD may be much higher by 2030, and it is estimated that it will become the 3rd most important cause of death worldwide.

Patients with this condition experience a prolonged decline of exercise capacity and in the final years of their life are severely short of breath, often unable to lead a normal life, and needing to access healthcare services regularly. This incurs great personal and national expense. The financial burden of COPD, particularly in developing countries, will parallel the ongoing abuse of factors that cause the disease, such as smoking.

Reversing this trend will take time: the effects of successful public education programmes will only be noticed after several decades, given that the negative effects of smoking only become apparent 30-40 years after its onset.


(Written by Prof J.R. Joubert, MSc, MBChB (Stell), FCP (SA), MMed (Int. Med), MD (Stell.))

(Reviewed by Dr Greg Calligaro, physician at the Lung Unit, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, August 2010)

 

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