New multilingual chronic obstructive pulmonary disease website

The European Respiratory Society has launched a new multilingual website specifically targeted at patients with chronic bronchitis, emphysema or other “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” (COPD), group of conditions in which the patient has an expiratory airflow obstruction that causes air to become trapped in the lung and limit the ability to exhale.

The website provides information English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

COPD currently affects 44 million people globally, and kills 300'000 Europeans every year. Specialists estimate that at least two thirds of sufferers do not know what is wrong with them, often because they have not been diagnosed.

The new site is based on a website intended mainly for the medical community, with guidelines on COPD management, which was launched recently by the ERS and its sister organisation, the American Thoracic Society, the two leading international authorities on lung medicine.

Visitors to the latest site, available in five major European languages, will be able not only to brush up their knowledge of COPD and how the lungs work, but also to find answers to frequently asked questions.

A General section will acquaint the reader with various aspects of anatomy and physiology, including the main components of the respiratory system and how it operates; how oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in the lungs; the role muscles play; and how the lungs protect themselves from attack.

This knowledge will help people to understand the cause of the various conditions, or, more generally, the reasons for their breathlessness.

People who have COPD or are worried that they might be developing one of these diseases can also gain a better understanding of the difference between chronic bronchitis, emphysema and other COPDs and the methods available to determine whether they do indeed have one of these conditions.

The site explains in simple terms what studies are carried out for diagnostic purposes, particularly in order to assess the patient’s lung capacity.

This new, multilingual European site will also allow patients to look at the drugs currently available to treat most conditions, especially bronchodilators, anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, with information on the type of molecules, the method of administration and the various brands, including generic drugs.

But the site also focuses on non-drug treatments, from simple educational programmes to major interventions such as lung volume reduction surgery.

It even provides guidelines to help the surfer maximise his protection against developing these diseases or avoiding exacerbation of an existing condition.

Top of the list, of course, is advice on stopping smoking, since this is the commonest cause of the various types of COPD.

  • “Is it too late to stop smoking?”
  • “What about flu or pneumonia vaccination?”
  • “What’s the connection between COPD and sleep?”
  • “Will COPD affect my sex life?”
  • “Is it safe for me to fly?”

Patients who have COPD or are worried about developing it can find answers to all of these questions – answers, moreover, that draw on the expertise of the top international authorities in the field, with input from doctors, nurses and health educationalists.

It is hoped that this website for the patient will play an important role in reducing COPD’s heavy toll on society worldwide.

As one of the major contributors to this patient section, Dr. Niels Chavannes of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, explained at the site’s launch in Glasgow, “recent research has shown that a holistic approach, involving patients as well as healthcare workers, has made it possible to break out of the vicious circle in which patients were trapped by their breathlessness and the social inconvenience resulting from their condition”.

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