Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The progressive nature of COPD is so fundamental that it is included in the definition adopted in the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines.1 According to GOLD, COPD is a disease state: ‘characterised by airflow limitation that is usually progressive and associated with an enhanced chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lung to noxious particles or gases. Exacerbations and comorbidities contribute to the overall severity in individual patients’.1
Many patients will experience COPD exacerbations. COPD exacerbations result in increased use of bronchodilators, impaired function and decreased enjoyment of life. More severe exacerbations require systemic steroids, antibiotics, and sometimes hospitalisation.
Since smoking or exposure to smoke is the most commonly encountered and easily identifiable risk factor for exacerbations, this should be the first treatment recommendation, even if a person has attempted to stop on a number of occasions.
This article will focus on how practice nurses can raise the subject of smoking and encourage smokers with COPD to stop and stay stopped. Empowering COPD patients to better manage their condition, and equipping them with the knowledge and right tools is crucial.
Advice from NICE