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March 16th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

What should I expect after COPD diagnosis?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Question asked by Pamela of Nashville, Tennessee:

I just learned that I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema. Can you tell me about it and what the prognosis is? I also have coronary artery disease and have had stents placed.

Expert answer:

Dear Pamela,

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a disease that truly negatively affects quality of life. Patients with COPD are prone to asthma-like wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing that can occur in episodes caused by chromic inflammation. They're also prone to viral and bacterial infections.

It is the fourth most common cause of death in the United States, killing an estimated 120,000 people each year.

While COPD is most noted for episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing, the disease is typically slowly progressive and persistent. Medical treatment can be successful in relieving symptoms and reducing the severity of exacerbations.

Treatment is with inhaled bronchodilators, steroids to reduce inflammation and other oral medications.

Breathing problems? Check them with this test

Early diagnosis and good treatment are important as they can reduce the number and severity of exacerbations and prolong survival. Some people can live with this condition for several decades.

More than 80% of patients with COPD have a history of cigarette smoking. A few patients have it because of chemical inhalation exposure. Most are overweight or obese. Weight loss can also occur in severe COPD and is a sign of severe disease with a poor prognosis.

At one time, we distinguished different types of COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. All patients with COPD have an element of each, although one component will usually predominate in the individual patient.

Chronic bronchitis is defined by a chronic cough that produces sputum. Emphysema is defined by enlargement and destruction of the airspaces in the lung.

When the physician examines a patient with very severe COPD one finds decreased breath sounds, wheezes, crackles at the lungs, and distant heart sounds. The patient's diaphragm in limited in movement, meaning the patient cannot take in deep breaths. In extremely severe disease, the chest size is increased.

Patients lean forward to use all the muscles of the chest and neck to bring air in. COPD can progress to cause heart failure, as the right side of the heart cannot pump blood into the damaged lungs.

Could your job be hurting your lungs?

Physicians use pulmonary function tests to assess the severity of COPD. These are tests to measure how fast it take a patient to fully exhale air, how much air he can exhale in one second, how much air he can inhale. X-ray and especially CT scans can also be used to assess damage to the lungs.

The arterial blood gases are a series of blood tests to determine how much oxygen and carbon dioxide is in the blood. As the disease worsens oxygenation goes down and carbon dioxide levels rise. Blood gas abnormalities acutely worsen during COPD exacerbations and often worsen during exercise and sleep.

Because most patients have a significant smoking history, most patients have many of the other illnesses associated with smoking, especially cardiovascular disease. These patients also have high risk for smoking related malignancies.

Unfortunately, poor lung function often interferes with or prevents treatment of the other diseases.

 


soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. micheal

    (HOW I WAS CURED TOTALLY WITH HERBAL MEDICINE)
    Am micheal Alex from USA..I smoked for 20 years, January 2011, i was diagnosed of Emphysema, my family doctor gave me bronchodilators to help me relax my bronchiolar muscles,because there was no cure for emphysema.so one day i was glancing through the internet,i saw a forum ,too many people writing about how Doctor BONGANI cure them of emphysema and he sell herbal medicines to cure different kinds of diseases,such as HERPES,ALS,MND,EPILEPSY,LEUKEMIA,ASTHMA,,GONORRHEA,,EMPHYSEMA,GENITAL WARTS,PARKINSON"S,DIABETES and lots more.I contacted Doctor Bongani via email;drbonganiherbalcure(at)gmail(dot)com. and made purchase of the emphysema herbal medicine, i received the herbal medicine through courier services within 3 days, when i received the herbal medicine i applied it as prescribed and was totally cured of emphysema within 4 weeks of usage, my family doctor confirmed am free from emphysema.is two months now,am living a normal life again ..thanks to doctor bongani...please dont ignore this post is real ...

    July 26, 2016 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. markanthonymartinjr

    I am from USA, I was diagnosed of Emphysema (COPD) in 2015 and I have tried all possible means to get cured, i even visited pulmonologist but all to no avail, until i saw a post in a health forum about a herbal doctor from Africa who prepare herbal medicine to cure all kind of diseases including Emphysema, at first i doubted if it was real but decided to give it a try, when i contacted this herbal doctor via his email he sent me the Emphysema herbal medicine through courier service, when i received this herbal medicine, he gave me step by instructions on how to apply it, when i applied it as instructed i was totally cured of this deadly disease within 12-14 days of usage, if you are suffering of this diseases you can as well Contact this great herbal doctor via his email abumereherbalcentre@gmail.com

    July 27, 2016 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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