According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is a chronic pulmonary disease that blocks the airways making it hard for people to breathe. COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and other symptoms. The disease is usually categorized in two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Currently, more than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD and the disease is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. What’s even more discouraging is that there is no cure for COPD and doctors don't know how to reverse the damage the disease has on the airways and the lungs.
A new study has found that of patients who suffer from COPD, African-American patients over the age of 40 are more likely to have to be readmitted to the hospital.
In 2008, COPD patient hospital readmissions within 30 days were 30 percent higher among Blacks than Hispanics or Asians and Pacific Islanders, and about nine percent higher than among whites, according to an analysis of data from State Inpatient Databases for 15 states, including: Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Overall, in 2008, about seven percent of COPD patients were readmitted within 30 days principally for COPD, and 21 percent were readmitted for any type of health problem ("all-cause readmission"), according to the Sept. 14 News and Numbers summary from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality…
Readmissions were 22 percent higher among patients in the poorest communities than among patients in high-income areas, and 13 percent higher among men than women, the report indicated.
So what causes COPD?
In most cases, cigarette smoking is the leading cause. Also, long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes or dust may contribute to developing the disease. It's also important to point out that this disease usually develops in middle age and older people. There has been some past scientific data that suggests that genetics impacts how African-Americans and caucasians internally react to smoking, which might explain the severity of COPD among African-Americans. In the meantime, the key to addressing this disease in our community is testing, and even though getting tested for COPD is fairly quick and easy, many people are unaware of their status.
To learn more about COPD, go here.
(Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria)