Wed, Mar 29, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Society promotes COPD awareness

SMOKERS BEWARE:The Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine says too few people know the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

An estimated 6 to 10 percent of people over 40 in the nation suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but many are not aware of it, leading to delayed treatment, the Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (TSPCCM) said yesterday.

A 64-year-old man surnamed Ho (何), who had smoked cigarettes for about 35 years, began to suffer from severe coughing and shortness of breath after walking a short distance about six years ago, Changhua Christian Hospital physician Lin Ching-hsiung (林慶雄) said.

Even after Ho quit smoking, the symptoms worsened to the point that he would start coughing after speaking a few sentences and coughed harder when he laughed, Lin said.

Shortness of breath landed Ho in the hospital’s emergency room more than once, the doctor said.

He was finally diagnosed with COPD, with a lung capacity of about 30 percent, but his symptoms have gradually improved after doing pulmonary rehabilitation exercises and taking medication, although his illness cannot be cured, Lin said.

According to a 2011 WHO report, four types of non-infectious diseases — cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease — account for 63 percent of all deaths worldwide, while on average one person dies of COPD every 10 seconds somewhere in the world, and about 5,000 people die of COPD each year in Taiwan, the society said.

“An estimated 6 to 10 percent of people aged above 40 in Taiwan suffer from COPD, which is about 1.1 million people,” physician and TSPCCM director Yu Chung-jen (余忠仁) said, adding that common symptoms include severe coughing, coughing up phlegm and feeling out of breath.

Prolonged exposure to air pollution or working in environments with dust or other airborne particles can contribute to COPD, but smoking cigarettes is the key factor associated with the disease, and the majority of patients in Taiwan are men, Yu said.

However, many people mistake the symptoms for a cold, leading to a delayed diagnosis, Yu said.

The Health Promotion Administration last year published a guideline for the clinical care of COPD and the National Health Insurance Administration has introduced a COPD medical payment improvement program to encourage better care for patients, Yu said.

The society has a Chinese-language Web site ( that provides information on COPD, including a questionnaire to help people determine if they are at risk of developing the disease, as well as information about medical treatment, Yu said.

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