November is COPD Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a common but often underdiagnosed respiratory condition.
COPD is a lung condition that causes breathing difficulties, a persistent cough, and frequent chest infections; it primarily affects people who smoke. There are more than 3 million people estimated to be living with COPD1, and exacerbations caused by this condition are the second most common cause of emergency hospital admissions, accounting for 1 in 8 in the UK2.
COPD encompasses a range of lung diseases, but two of the most prevalent and well-known are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. While they share similarities, it’s important to understand the key differences between these two conditions to effectively manage and treat COPD.
Emphysema primarily affects the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. These tiny sacs are responsible for oxygen exchange in the body, but in emphysema, they become damaged and lose their elasticity making it increasingly difficult to inhale and exhale. As it becomes more of a strain to breathe and the condition progresses, even simple tasks like walking or climbing stairs can become incredibly challenging.
Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, mainly affects the bronchial tubes in the lungs. These tubes are responsible for carrying air to and from the lungs, but in chronic bronchitis, they become inflamed and produce excessive mucus. When excess mucus is produced, the bronchial tubes become clogged, making it difficult to breathe. This typically leads to the development of a persistent cough.
Some people living with COPD may have been diagnosed with both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Patients can also be diagnosed with just one of these conditions and still receive a diagnosis of COPD.
Both conditions, however, are usually caused by long-term exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke:around 75% of all COPD cases occur in people with a history of smoking3. In England, 86% of COPD-related deaths are caused by smoking4.
While emphysema and chronic bronchitis have distinct characteristics, it’s essential to recognise that many individuals with COPD have a combination of both conditions. Early diagnosis and effective management are critical. Treatment typically involves lifestyle changes, medications, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation.
Although there are some existing treatment options for COPD, further treatments are needed to provide long-term relief. MAC Clinical Research is committed to improving the quality of life for those living with COPD through clinical trials;. if you are aged 40-85, an ex or current smoker living with COPD and a history of frequent exacerbations, you could be eligible to take part in MAC’s clinical trial, investigating a potential new treatment option.
The trial is running at MAC’s clinics in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, South Yorkshire, and Teesside.
If eligible, you will receive reimbursement for your time and commitment to the trial, plus reasonable travel expenses will be paid, or transport provided, as well as a full medical check-up.
To find out more about MAC’s clinical trial and register your interest to take part, visit MAC’s COPD research webpage today.
1 NHS Inform – Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
3 American Lung Association – COPD Causes and Risk Factors