November 11, 2013

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Can Be Treated

After years of fighting chronic respiratory problems, my dear mother in law succumbed to lungs so severely depleted by infection that they no longer could sustain her.  Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to lung diseases that block airflow as you exhale and make it increasingly difficult to breathe.

Warning Signs of Lung Diseases

Emphysema and chronic asthmatic bronchitis are the two main conditions in which damage to the airways eventually interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs. Signs and symptoms:  shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and chronic cough.  Causes:  Chronic asthmatic bronchitis causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways that lead to the lungs and increases mucus production, which further blocks the airway.  Emphysema damages the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs to reduce the amount of surface area available for oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange and makes the alveolar walls weaker so they collapse with exhalation and trap air.  Shortness of breath results because the chest wall muscles have to work harder to expel the air.  Risks:  Long-term exposure to irritants in tobacco smoke, dust, chemical fumes, or air pollution are typical factors.  COPD develops slowly over years, so most people are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin.  Complications:  More frequent respiratory infections that can produce further irreversible damage to the lung tissue.  High blood pressure in the arteries that bring blood to the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) and heart disease.  Tests and Diagnosis:  There are imaging (X-ray and CT Scan) tests, lab tests of blood gas analysis or sputum, or pulmonary function tests to determine the existence and progression of the disease.  If present, patients need to be treated by a pulmonologist.  There is no cure for COPD, and lung damage cannot be undone.  But COPD treatments can control symptoms, reduced the risk of complications and exacerbations and improve your ability to lead an active life.  Unlike some diseases, COPD usually has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention.  Prevention  involves reducing or eliminating exposure to risk factors.   

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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