Doctor or nurse auscultating patient spineBreathing difficulties can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life and if untreated, can reduce life expectancy.

The good news is that many respiratory illnesses are reversible and there are ways to reduce symptoms and improve overall health.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to diagnose people with emphysema, bronchitis or a combination of the two.

Respiratory Physician Professor Peter Bremner says COPD is an extremely common, but preventable and treatable disease.

“Firstly, smoking will significantly increase your chances of developing COPD,” Professor Bremner says.

“But if you do have the disease, we have come a really long way in diagnosis and developing treatment that will improve your symptoms, and reduce the risk of flare-ups requiring admission to hospital.”

Current or past smokers are at risk of getting COPD as well as those who have lived or worked in places that were very dusty or smoky over a long period of time. There is occasionally an inherited component.

Professor Bremner says the small air passages in your lungs, the bronchial tubes, become narrower, making it harder to breathe. Common symptoms are shortness of breath, persistent cough and build-up of phlegm in the lungs.

“Medicines can widen the bronchial tubes and make breathing easier.”

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