COPD: Eliminating Stigma

The stigma of COPD can prevent patients from coming forward. Here are our top insider tips on how you can make the difference.

Few chronic illnesses carry a lack of awareness and a stigma like COPD. Caused primarily by tobacco use, COPD can evoke feelings of guilt, shame and regret among patients for their condition, particularly if there is a history of smoking or an inability to quit regardless of diagnosis.¹ An increasing societal expectation for people to be responsible for their health can fuel this lack of empathy.

In fact, the stigma of COPD is so ingrained in our consciousness that it also applies to older patients who were not aware of the dangers of smoking decades ago. The stigma of COPD even pertains to the 25% of patients who never smoked and whose disease has been caused by environmental, occupational or genetic factors.¹

Those with COPD may also experience stigma within the healthcare system. This can be especially damaging, as studies show that a lack of understanding and trust from health personnel can negatively affect the lives of people with COPD.

As a result, those living with COPD are often afraid to discuss symptoms with their primary care physicians, ask questions or seek more information or treatment. This directly prevents early diagnosis and treatment, which can have a devastating effect on the patient’s prognosis and management of the disease.

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1. McNamee D. How does stigma surrounding COPD affect research and care? Medical News Today. Accessed December 22, 2017

Excerpt and photo printed with permission from Philips Respironics. 


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