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Chronic lung disease: Smoking is responsible for 90 percent of COPD cases
Health experts say up to five million people in Germany suffer from COPD. The incurable lung disease is the number three cause of death worldwide. Despite the breathing problems associated with the disease, patients should keep moving and not do without exercise.
Up to five million Germans suffer from COPD
According to the German Respiratory League, three to five million people suffer from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in Germany alone. According to health experts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, popularly known as smoker's cough, is the third leading cause of death worldwide. Sometimes non-smokers are also affected, but in 90 percent of all cases in Germany the main cause is pretty clearly determined: smoking.
Serious lung disease is not curable
Many patients are often unaware of their severe lung disease for a long time. It starts slowly.
The most important signs are expectoration, coughing and shortness of breath ("AHA" symptoms), the latter often only occurring at the beginning with physical exertion, but also in the further course during rest.
According to doctors, the symptoms differ depending on the severity of the disease. In particularly bad cases, those affected can experience breathlessness even with slight exertion and may need to be supplied with oxygen.
Over time, cardiovascular diseases can also occur in patients due to the poorer oxygen supply to the body.
The disease is incurable. Prof. Hubert Wirtz, Head of the Department of Pneumology at the University Hospital Leipzig (UKL), points this out on the occasion of World COPD Day on November 15.
“COPD shortens life expectancy. It is not curable, ”said the expert in a message.
Air shortages even with light activities
According to Prof. Wirtz, the number of smokers in the so-called industrial countries is declining slightly, but the number of COPD cases is still increasing.
The respiratory tract narrows in sick people, and lung tissue is destroyed. Mucus is increasingly produced in the bronchial tubes, those affected have to cough heavily and have expectoration.
The lungs suffer from a loss of structure. Instead of many small alveoli, there are bigger blisters. This means that the surface necessary for guest exchange is lost. Affected people notice it first when they are subjected to loads such as climbing stairs or cycling.
“Our lungs have large reserves. Their capacity ranges from sitting still to running a marathon, "explains the UKL pneumologist," but if the disease causes excess capacity to be lost, even with light activities, this leads to a shortage of air. "
The problem: “What is lost in the structure of the lungs is gone. COPD is not curable, but progressive. You can only try to slow down the loss, ”emphasizes Prof. Wirtz.
More lung sports groups are needed
Because the elasticity of the organ has also been lost, the airways are narrowed. When you exhale, a lot of air remains in the chest, i.e. trapped in your chest, too little new air can be inhaled.
This condition is exacerbated by stress. Medicines can at least help to relieve the cramps and ensure better emptying of the lungs.
Very important: COPD patients still have to keep moving, the expert says: "Anyone who has COPD has to maintain physical strain in any case, otherwise it will get worse and worse."
According to Wirtz, the importance of this has only been recognized in recent years. "More lung sport groups would be needed, also as a rehabilitation measure," he says, "there are too few of these in Germany and they are not sufficiently adapted to the needs of COPD patients."
The Leipzig pneumologist also emphasizes another aspect of treatment: “Patients need to be examined more than just in the lungs, because they often have comorbidities such as osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, but also depression. You have to see the whole person, ”emphasizes Prof. Wirtz. (ad)