Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Key Points to Remember
  • Dyspnea is the sixth vital sign for individuals living with COPD.
  • Dyspnea is the most common disabling symptom of COPD.
  • Incapacitating dyspnea is the most common presenting symptom of AECOPD.
  • People living with COPD experience 2-3 AECOPD per year.
  • Dyspnea is a subjective symptom of difficult or uncomfortable breathing.
  • Dyspnea must not be confused with changes in rate or depth of respiration that may not produce a sense of breathlessness.
  • The affective contribution to a perception of more or less breathlessness remains enigmatic.
  • Mortality rates are increasing for all individuals over 75 years of age.
  • In 1999 in Canada, COPD was the fourth leading cause of death in men and the fifth in women.
  • Healthcare costs for COPD in Canada represent an enormous economic burden.