The latest data on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) show an increase in the prevalence of the disease, and currently, according to the report “The 10 leading causes of death in the world” of the World Organization for the Health (WHO), COPD has become the third leading cause of death worldwide, only behind ischemic heart disease and cardiovascular accidents 3 .
In the EPISCAN II study, the prevalence of COPD shows wide geographic variability. In the case of Catalonia, a prevalence of 17.3% is observed, affecting 11.9% of women and 22.7% of men 2 .
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COPD patients have been especially vulnerable to the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic, since they have experienced a setback in the follow-up of their disease, given the difficulties of maintaining their visits to health centers in person, at least in the most critical months of a pandemic.
Fear has been another factor that has influenced these patients, as they respect preventive measures as much as possible, since this has caused that they have further delayed visits to their reference health centers. In addition, the pandemic situation has also made it difficult to diagnose new patients, since it has not been possible to perform the diagnostic tests for COPD, such as spirometry.
Faced with this scenario, the patient organizations FENAER and APEPOC have highlighted the need for chronic patients to regain their COPD check-up routines. As Iñaki Morán, vice president of FENAER, points out, “from the Federation we encourage COPD patients to gradually recover their health care normality and in those cases in which the face-to-face visit cannot be carried out, we remind them that they can use tools such as telemedicine; that arrived with the pandemic and can be a useful resource in these circumstances, although always as a complement to face-to-face visits ”.
To respond to these needs, FENAER and APEPOC, together with a group of COPD experts from different scientific societies, have created a campaign to help communication between the doctor and the patient, based on the EPOC Teleconsultation Protocol .
It is a guide, with various support materials whose main objective is to help the patient and the doctor to have guidelines to improve follow-up visits, whether in person or online. This facilitates the preparation of the patient / doctor / nurse consultation on both sides, since it offers the necessary tools to make the follow-ups more effective. This guide is easy to use, you only need an internet connection and a device, be it mobile, tablet or computer.
A patient with COPD must know, for the sake of his health, what are the complications that his condition may have, if the disease is not well controlled. In these patients, knowledge and knowing how to react in time in emergencies takes special relevance. For this reason, relevant information has been collected in a single web portal to help patients .
COPD is characterized by a continuous reduction in air flow, thus causing dyspnea (feeling short of breath), chronic cough and expectoration.
In addition to the reference guide, patients have other useful resources in their day-to-day life. As guidelines for quitting smoking , being exposure to tobacco the main cause of COPD. 4 ; In addition, the practice of exercise in COPD patients is also important , since it contributes a very important part in the management of the disease. Physical activity is associated with these benefits in COPD patients:
• Delayed deterioration of lung function
• Strengthening the muscles
• Decreased fatigue (typical of COPD patients)
• Decrease in income from exacerbations
• Increased survival
• Multiple psychological benefits
It is recommended that COPD patients consult their healthcare professional to evaluate the type and intensity of exercise that they can perform.
The objective is to motivate the patient to actively manage their disease and to regain control visits, which have decreased significantly as a result of the pandemic.
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From the perspective of Nicole Hass, spokesperson for the APEPOC Association: “ the Covid-19 pandemic has turned COPD patients into an enormously vulnerable group that has suffered a tension that has not ceased with lack of focus, for fear that prophylactic measures did not prevent contagion. We need the COPD strategy to be reactivated and the visibility of this disease is urgent so that by increasing the number of diagnostic tests an underdiagnosis of 74.7% existing in Spain can be alleviated , 2 according to the data from the EPISCAN II study ”.
According to Morán “our obligation as patients is to train ourselves, learn to manage the disease, know how to recognize symptoms, learn to transmit them to health professionals and thus be able to actively collaborate and participate in the medical decisions of our disease.”
Patient organizations highlight the need for the patient to also contribute to their disease control strategy. Smoking is one of the main causes of COPD. In this regard, Hass offers an important piece of information to reflect on: “We know that 85% of our patients are smokers or ex-smokers. Many continue to smoke despite the disease. It is a trend that is also observed in other European countries ” .
Smoking is a chronic addictive disease that, according to the WHO, begins in 80% of cases before the age of 20 and is maintained by the dependence produced by nicotine. It is not a vice or a habit. You need understanding and help to cope with your addiction.