National COPD Day

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Are your lungs trying to tell you something?

PHOENIX -- COPD --  chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- claims one life every four minutes in the U.S. It is the third leading cause of death in Arizona and the United States, yet 12 million people may have it and not even know it. 

World COPD Day, which takes place Nov, 20, aims to raise awareness about this serious lung disease and the importance of taking action early. 

Lung damage caused by COPD is irreversible, but if you're diagnosed early, it's not too late to live an active life. 

The American Lung Association urges you to ask your doctor about a simple breathing test called spirometry, which can detect the early stages of lung damage.  Oftentimes, early damage doesn't show up on chest X-rays and people attribute their shortness of breath to something else. 

"I thought all I needed to do was lose a little weight.  That wasn't it," says Mesa resident and COPD patient Jan Karlbon. She wasn't diagnosed until her lungs had already been severely damaged. 

"I love to laugh, but I can't anymore because I can't breathe," she said.

COPD symptoms

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • A chronic cough that produces sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)

To learn more about COPD, visit and