Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

When a patient’s airways in the lung are inflamed due to excess mucus, the inflammation can block the lungs' ability to get oxygen into the blood. Shortness of breath occurs with physical activity and wheezy or labored breathing is noted. Often there is tightness of the chest. The patient may have difficulty talking or breathing. The patient may cough up mucous or stained phlegm. Loss of appetite and changes in skin color may occur.  Poor sleep can occur from night time coughing, and morning headaches are often noted. An irregular or rapid heartbeat can be noted periodically, especially when the patient is in a lot of discomfort from symptoms.

Causes

Smoke or chronic exposure to toxins in the environment may lead to these symptoms of chronic chest illness.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The diagnosis is made when the patient’s symptoms and history are consistent with the commonly accepted causes of this illness. Chest X-ray and pulmonary function tests can be utilized to assess the extent and damage to the chest.

Treatment consists of bronchodilators, both short- and long-acting as well as steroids. Stopping exposure to smoke is strongly recommended, although half of patients with COPD continue to smoke. Physical therapy to preserve and improve physical activity and strength is very helpful. Regular contact with your physician and regular assessment are necessary to maximize pulmonary function after diagnosis.