COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) has become notorious as a tobacco smokers' fatal disease, and Sweden counts some 400,000-700,000 people with the affliction.

COPD is often perceived as a "difficult" disease for which little can be done except await the final stages of oxygen therapy and death. But these misconceptions are changing because, today, COPD is both preventable and treatable.

Physical activity makes COPD patients feel better and experience higher quality living. Presented by Mats Arne in April at Uppsala University, this thesis reveals that sick people are ashamed to be afflicted with COPD, and their shame makes them delay in seeking health care.

"Because there is a connection between smoking and suffering, and patients have caused this themselves, they put off seeking treatment," says Arne. He believes that the medical profession must maintain an open and non-judgmental attitude that encourages patients to seek care at an early stage.

His studies also show that restrictions on movement play a significant role. Physical inactivity, along with fatigue and other concurrent diseases, may cause the person to be trapped in a spiral of lower mobility, social isolation and reduced quality of life.

Smoking cessation remains the single most important measure for preventing COPD. Higher levels of physical activity and exercise do not improve lung capacity of patients, but they are important factors for muscle function and general well being.

Moreover, COPD diagnoses must be made correctly along with a pulmonary function study (spirometry) to confirm the diagnosis. "The patient may, with the right support, learn to use remaining lung capacity in a good manner,"says Arne.

Resource: www.uu.se, medsci.uu.se