OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Anton Kidess, MD, FCCP

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

By Anton Kidess, MD, FCCP
Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine
Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine
Eau Claire Medical Clinic, Eau Claire

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a chronic disorder of the lungs. It is a disease that limits the flow of air into and out of the lungs. This is usually progressive and leads to significant disability. Patients may suffer from shortness of breath and their lifestyle and ability to follow through on daily tasks may be affected. There is no cure.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease, cancer and stroke. Since 1965 the death rates from coronary artery disease and stroke have decreased, but the death rate from COPD has increased by 163%.

Medical expenditures related to COPD are estimated to be over $18 billion, annually. Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of COPD; and as such, disability and premature death from COPD is preventable.

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can be helped by early diagnosis and assistance in preventing the progression of the disease. Patients do not have to experience early death or disability from COPD. Tobacco users, even those without symptoms, need evaluation to detect early signs of COPD. Early signs of disease may be as simple as a chronic morning cough with sputum production or a smoker's cough.

A simple test called Spirometry can detect evidence of airway obstruction. Once the disease is diagnosed, attention is focused on rehabilitation and preventing the progression of COPD. Quitting smoking remains the single most effective and cost-effective intervention to reduce the risk of developing COPD. There is no existing medication that has been shown to modify the long-term decline in lung function that is the hallmark of this disease; therefore, treatment is geared towards decreasing the symptoms and the complications. Several options are available. Inhalers are used to provide symptom relief and oxygen can also be of great benefit for those people who need it. Vaccinations, especially yearly influenza vaccinations, and pneumococcal vaccinations help prevent infections. Pulmonary rehabilitation can be quite helpful in the management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Patients are encouraged to participate in a regular exercise program that can strengthen and maintain muscle tone and build endurance. Educating patients about their disease can help them understand and manage their symptoms and medications, acquire skills for conserving their energy, and learn breathing techniques for reducing shortness of breath. Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and COPD may have some similar symptoms. If you, or someone you know, have respiratory concerns, talk with your healthcare provider or pulmonary specialist regarding COPD and other pulmonary diseases for proper diagnosis and treatment.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Anton Kidess » 715.839.9280, Eau Claire Medical Clinic, SC, Eau Claire.

Helpful resources for more information about COPD