This lung disease is unrecognized in many old people

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In a recent report, researchers discuss the prevalence, incidence, and impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in older people.

Despite the high incidence of COPD—as many as 30 million Americans are affected—many patients are not diagnosed, according to the report.

This occurs for multiple reasons, including poor awareness of symptoms among patients and providers, low suspicion of disease, and inadequate reimbursement for diagnostic tests.

Once diagnosed, patients face further challenges with a multitude of treatment options and devices, inadequate patient education to manage their condition, exacerbations, and disparate perceptions between patients and providers of what is most important to address in treatment plans.

The researchers provide insight on improving the understanding of COPD, enhancing the tools available to health care professionals in diagnosing and managing the illness, and raising awareness of the impact of COPD in older adults.

The study is published in the What’s Hot newsletter from The Gerontological Society of America.

COPD is defined by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) as a common, preventable, and treatable disease.

It is characterized by persistent respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation that is due to airway and/or alveolar abnormalities usually caused by significant exposure to noxious particles or gases and influenced by host factors, including abnormal lung development.

COPD is more common in older adults, but under-diagnosis may occur because they think that shortness of breath or other symptoms is a normal sign of aging, and does not mention these symptoms to their health care providers.

But outcomes can be improved with appropriate reporting of symptoms, screening, and treatment.

The researchers say that COPD has well-established guidelines for the management of the disease, but greater awareness and adherence to guidelines among health care providers is needed as well.

The report further summarizes the symptoms and differential diagnoses for the disease and identifies additional reasons for underdiagnosis in older adults.

Treatment options following GOLD guidelines are explained, along with steps to improve the process of diagnosis and treatment.

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