The effective management of exacerbations require more education among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as well as improved dialogue with their physicians, according to a two-part national Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Experience (COPDE) Survey conducted by the COPD Foundation. The key recommendations focus on exacerbations, since it is a progressive respiratory condition and potentially life-threatening complication.
Nearly two-thirds of COPD patients in the survey (62 percent) answered that they didn’t know much about exacerbations, and another 16 percent admitted not knowing what it is at all. 60 percent of the total number of patients don’t have an action plan for dealing with it. However, COPD exacerbations are one of the main causes of hospitalization in the United States and almost all (98 percent) of the physicians surveyed who treat COPD answered they discuss exacerbations with their patients and 92 percent establish action plans.
“Exacerbations can have a devastating impact on overall health, and they can actually cause COPD to progress even faster and reduce lung function,” explained the director of Education, COPD Foundation, Scott Cerreta. “Developing an action plan with instructions to help patients, and their caregivers, identify warning signs and what steps to take if an exacerbation should occur is a critical part of managing COPD.”
The Foundation considered the results suggest the need for improvements in a productive, meaningful communication between COPD patients and physicians. Exacerbations consist of the severeness of the symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chronic coughing or wheezing, and production of excess mucus, and it is when breathing becomes more difficult. From the patients questioned who suffered exacerbations, the average of episodes is 22 during their lifetime, since when a patient experiences mild, moderate, or severe exacerbations, the probability of suffering more increases.
Another feature that the COPD Foundation called attention to is the need for proper diagnosis and early detection, since COPD patients revealed in the survey that they have experienced symptoms for an average of two years and nine months before the diagnoses. The physicians, on the other hand, reported that 39 percent of their patients were diagnosed when they were already in a severe or very severe state. Less than half of the physicians (49 percent) indicated that they always perform spirometry, a diagnostic tool that measures lung function, to confirm a diagnosis.
What was particularly concerning was that only 12 percent of COPD patients consider their condition as completely controlled, and that the majority of patients may be unaware that they could do more for their health, since 82 percent of the patients were satisfied with their treatment regimen. Most of the patients reported they were able to complete normal daily activities such as exercising (87 percent), climbing stairs (86 percent), and walking (77 percent).
“COPD can be treated – but it’s crucial for doctors to diagnose it early and for patients to follow the appropriate therapeutic strategies to improve symptoms, increase activity, and reduce the chances of exacerbations,” said the associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at the University of Michigan MeiLan Han, M.D., M.S. “It’s important that physicians develop an individualized approach that works best for each patient.”
The COPE patient and physician surveys were performed by the COPD Foundation and supported by Forest Laboratories. The surveys are included in Forest’s MORE Matters education campaign, which is being developed to increase COPD patients, which include 24 million Americans, and their caregivers more education about the condition, helpful resources and support to help in the management the disease.