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Are You One of the Missing Millions?


In the United States, there are 15 million American adults, the “missing millions,” with undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. This is why Village Medical™ and the COPD Foundation have partnered with the aim to raise awareness through education and outreach campaigns to help identify those with undiagnosed COPD and increase their access to pulmonary rehabilitation.

How do you know if you are one of the missing millions? Below we have provided important information about COPD. Review it carefully and reach out to your primary care doctor if you have any questions or believe you may have COPD.

COPD signs and symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of COPD is essential for early detection and effective management. Here are some symptoms of which you should be aware.

  • Persistent cough. A chronic cough that often produces mucus is a common symptom of COPD.
  • Shortness of breath. Breathlessness, especially during physical activity, is a hallmark symptom of COPD that worsens over time.
  • Wheezing. High-pitched whistling sounds during breathing, particularly during exhalation, may indicate COPD.
  • Chest tightness. A sensation of pressure or discomfort in the chest can accompany COPD, especially during exacerbations.
  • Fatigue and reduced energy. COPD can increase fatigue and decrease energy levels, impacting daily life.

If you experience any of these symptoms frequently or notice them worsening, it is important to contact your primary care doctor so they can give you an accurate diagnosis and start you on an appropriate management plan.

Four stages of COPD

Stage 1: mild COPD (mild airflow limitation). Subtle symptoms, occasional coughing, and mild decrease in lung function.

Stage 2: moderate COPD (moderate airflow limitation). Noticeable symptoms including worsened shortness of breath during physical activity with or without increased coughing, and further decline in lung function.

Stage 3: severe COPD (severe airflow limitation). Significant impact on daily life, severe shortness of breath even with minimal exertion, decreased activity level, often with increased coughing and more frequent exacerbations.

Stage 4: very severe COPD (very severe airflow limitation). Extreme symptoms, severe shortness of breath with any activity even at times at rest, significantly limited daily activities, often with frequent exacerbations, and advanced medical interventions may be required.

Early intervention and appropriate management can slow down the progression of COPD and improve quality of life. Regular check-ups, adherence to treatment plans and a healthy lifestyle play important roles in managing COPD at every stage.

Treatment for COPD

When it comes to managing COPD, a comprehensive approach is crucial. While a cure for COPD is not available, various treatment options can help control symptoms and slow down the disease's advancement.

Here's what you need to know.

  • Medications. Bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids are commonly prescribed to relax the airways, reduce inflammation, and improve breathing.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. Engaging in structured programs that combine exercise, education, and breathing techniques can enhance lung function and overall well-being.
  • Oxygen therapy. Supplemental oxygen may be recommended to ensure adequate oxygen levels, reduce breathlessness, and improve stamina.
  • Lifestyle modifications. Quitting smoking, regular exercise, and adopting a healthy diet are essential for managing COPD effectively.
  • Vaccinations. Annual flu vaccine and pneumonia vaccine.

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of COPD, don't delay seeking medical attention. Contact your primary care doctor for evaluation and treatment.

Learn More

You can take action today to take control of your COPD – and we are here to help. Your health is important, and by acting now, you will set a strong foundation for successfully managing your COPD to live your best life.  

“Patients who are living with COPD struggle with ongoing discomfort, breathlessness, and chronic coughs – and we have ways to help improve their quality of life,” said Clive Fields, M.D., co-founder of VillageMD. “Through this partnership with the COPD Foundation, we will help our patients and at-risk populations manage or even prevent COPD through trusting patient-provider relationships, comprehensive care teams, and expanded access to rehabilitation resources.”