Shortness of breath, otherwise known as dyspnoea or “air hunger,” is a common symptom of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is a serious problem that should not be ignored, and a group of researchers from GlaxoSmithKline R&D in the United States and United Kingdom determined that nearly half of COPD patients may suffer from moderate-to-severe dyspnoea. As a promoter and provider of information concerning COPD, it is possible that GlaxoSmithKline may spread the word about dyspnoea on the newly relaunched copd.com website.
A multitude of factors contributing to dyspnoea were analyzed for a sample of 49,438 patients from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink in the researchers’ study, “Prevalence and Burden of Breathlessness in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Managed in Primary Care.” A large majority (40,425) of patients had some form of breathlessness as determined by the Medical Research Council dyspnoea scale, where a score of 5 represents the most severe case of breathlessness.
Approximately half (46%) of patients had an MRC score greater than three, placing them in the category of moderate-to-severe dyspnoea. Although a high degree of airflow limitation was associated with increased breathlessness, 32% of patients with mild airflow obstruction experienced breathlessness. Other contributing factors included female gender, old age, obesity, previous moderate-to-severe COPD exacerbations, and the need to see a general practitioner frequently.
Patients with dyspnoea of all severities, even mild, were at a higher risk for exacerbations and increased disease severity during follow-ups. New, unrelated research might be able to help those patients who suffer from exacerbations: as reported by Lung Disease News, prophylaxis therapy may reduce the occurrence of exacerbations in COPD patients. Overall, in this study breathlessness indicated poorer outcomes for COPD patients.
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