Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


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By Osian Jones

on Thursday 4 January 2018


doctor listening to child chest

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of pulmonary (lung) conditions that cause long-term difficulties in breathing. This occurs when airways have been narrowed, meaning that air flow and oxygen to the blood is restricted.

According to the British Thoracic Society, there are around 30,000 deaths from the condition annually, and it is the second most common lung disease in the UK, with lung cancer being the first. The most common cause for COPD is smoking, however, past or present occupational exposure to hazardous dusts and fibres have contributed considerably, with approximately 4,000 work-related deaths occurring annually, as reported by the Health and Safety Executive.

There are two conditions belonging to COPD:

Chronic bronchitis – this occurs when there is long-term inflammation of the airways, meaning that they are narrowed. The inflamed airways subsequently produce sputum (phlegm), causing chronic coughing and difficulty in breathing.

Emphysema – with this, the air sacs at the end of the airways in the lungs are damaged. This then creates holes in the lungs, which trap air and cause breathlessness.

Both can occur at the same time and these blockages make it more difficult to pass air in and out of the lungs, meaning that they are less able to take oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide. The narrowing of the airways occurs because the tissue and lining are impaired and inflamed.

Generally, these conditions affect people over 35, particularly if they smoke or used to, or if they were exposed to hazardous chemicals, dust and fibres over a long period of time in the workplace. Some substances include coal, asbestos or silica dust, isocyanates, fumes from welding and grain or flour dust. If you smoke and work in an environment involving such substances, then the risk of contracting COPD is much higher.

 

What are the symptoms of COPD?

The symptoms belonging to COPD are similar to those brought on by other lung conditions. Some general symptoms are:

  • Losing breath easily when doing everyday activities
  • A dry, persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Producing more phlegm than normal
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Swelling of the ankles

Depending on the severity of these symptoms and whether or not they are regularly occurring, you should try to see your GP either way as soon as possible.

If they are not so severe or persistent, it could just be a curable virus such as asthma. An x-ray will be able to determine whether or not your lungs are damaged and identify any narrowing of the airways.

If you were to contract COPD, unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are many steps to follow to manage the condition. For example, quitting smoking immediately if you do so, obtaining certain medications from your doctor, receiving oxygen treatment or non-invasive ventilation. People with emphysema can also choose to have surgery to remove the damaged parts of the lung.

In any case, sustaining these symptoms because of a negligent employer is frustrating and distressing; it should have been avoided at all costs.

 

What is the life expectancy of someone with COPD?

Similar to other lung conditions, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease prognosis and life expectancy differ from person to person depending on the severity of the illness. It is a progressive disease that gets worse over time and is irreversible.

Despite treatment that can be used to help people manage their condition and continue with their everyday activities without being totally limited to do so, COPD could still get worse and take more years off your life.

The question “how long can you live with COPD?” is difficult to answer, as both the severity of the condition and whether you smoke or not have an impact on one’s lifespan. For example, a person aged 60 who smokes and has the condition may lose almost 6 years of his life if he was at stage 3 or 4, whereas someone who has never smoked could have less than a year’s reduction if they were at stage 2. Giving specifics is difficult, but it's best to get professional advice on your longevity if you are suffering from COPD.

 

What are the Benefits for COPD Sufferers?

For those suffering from a lung condition, there are COPD benefits that you can claim for in the UK; these were updated in 2017. The British Lung Foundation states that sufferers may be entitled to benefits if you:

  • have care or mobility requirements
  • are unable to work because of the pulmonary illness
  • are thinking about finishing work because of it
  • provide care for someone who is a COPD sufferer
  • need help with prescription costs

If the COPD was contracted through exposure to hazardous dusts at work, there is also the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit government scheme in place to help you. The weekly amount that you could potentially receive depends on the level of injury or illness. More information on the IIDB can be found on GOV.UK.

 

Accident Line Direct

If you have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and you feel that it was caused by a lack of protection in your working environment, then you may be able to claim for compensation against your employer or an ex-employer.

Here at Accident Line Direct, we understand that no compensation amount can cure the illness or ease your suffering, but it could help with any financial burdens. This could include medical care costs, travel costs to and from the hospital or any other expenses you may have incurred from contracting the condition.

Our expert advisors can provide you with more information and advice on making a No Win No Fee claim, so call us today and make the first step in easing any financial afflictions.

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