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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 (56 Responses)
  1. jewel girl

    My husband is 71 and has COPD. He was a cigarette smoker for decades. He is on medication and has difficulty sleeping and cough "attacks". He now puffs a cigar a day and tells me that he does not inhale the smoke. I think that the second hand smoke is aggrivating the COPD but he just won't listen. Does anyone know if it is?

    March 16, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Of course it's impacting his breathing and making his COPD worse. Even if he doesn't directly inhale (intentionally), there's plenty of second-hand smoke in the air around him. Some of the smoke will stay in his mouth anyway to be inhaled on the next breath. So, without a doubt, this is continuing to aggravate his COPD. That's an absolute no-brainer. If he doesn't believe you or me, tell him to ask his doctor.

      March 16, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • Yakobi.

      Yes, second hand smoke is never good. But at least cigars are not as bad as cigarettes, since the former don't contain nearly as many toxins as the latter.
      The simple solution (easier said than done) is to quit smoking altogether and switch to a nicotine patch, exercise regularly, and lose excess weight.

      March 16, 2011 at 12:36 | Report abuse |
    • justme

      Your letter is a perfect example of how addicting cigarette smoking is. Your husband has lungs that are obstructed from years of smoking and yet he continues to smoke. He may only be puffing but he inhales the smoke after he exhales it. Has he tried these fake cigarettes that people use to stop smoking?

      March 16, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
  2. Wendy

    My mother passed away from COPD in January 2008. It was a long and debilitating illness and while she was forced to stop smoking at the point she became incapacitated and ultimately entered a nursing home, she wanted a cigarette until the day she died. Prior to her death at 85, she was on a nebulizer and every other inhaler/medication that was available to assist in her breathing. While any amount of smoking of any kind will act to worsen breathing capacity, at 71 the damage has already been done. I literally watched my mother die of this insidious disease and she gasped and struggled as she took her last breath. We were warned that this was an incredibly painful way to die (you cannot catch your breath) and it was painful for us to watch even though we knew what was coming. If smokers were to have watched her die, I swear they would have given up smoking on the spot. No amount of pleading with her to stop smoking as we were growing up made an impact and this was the end result (both parents were heavy smokers; however, none of us do). My dad died in 1996 from surgical complications thought to have been related to his smoking, too. You don't want to die this way, trust me. PLEASE stop smoking ...

    March 16, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      Wendy, I wish you were right, that smokers who watched your mom die would have quit on the spot. But they just can't, and it's sickening. My father died from laryngeal and lung cancer due to 40+ years of smoking and my mom died from COPD due to 30 years of smoking plus years of secondhand smoke, and both times, smokers who witnessed the pain, stress, and discomfort they were both going through actually said to me, sorry, even that won't make me quit, it's just too powerful of an addiction. Very scary. So I lost both parents to smoking and I worry that the years of being exposed to horrible, smelly, disgusting secondhand smoke will take their toll on me as well. I would give almost anything if there were no such thing as cigarettes. The secondhand smoke is hurting all of us, but most smokers don't care. For those who truly long to quit and can't, I extend my sympathies. I also agree with the comment about how the damage is already done and if they can't stop or don't want to, maybe it offers some small measure of comfort to them (as gross as it is to the rest of us) during their final days.

      March 16, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • nowathriver

      @Wendy

      We could be sisters. You just described my mother perfectly although she is still gasping for breath. I am sorry that you had to witness her painful passing.

      March 17, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
    • Ginni

      Such a sad and yet common scenario. My dad is dying from COPD now and still smokes, as does my mom. I have adult onset asthma from exposure to the second-hand smoke all my life. I bought my parents the e-cigarettes to try but they did not like them. It's too painful to think about what they are doing to themselves.

      March 17, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
    • Melody Harbour

      Hi Wendy,
      As we speak I am in the hospital just after finding out that I, at 58, mother to three, grandmother to 7, have COPD, and Emphysema. I read what you wrote and it inspired me to not make my children go through what you and others went through with your parent (loved one). I came in to the hospital last Friday Night thinking I might have had pneumonia..I have had a bad cough for years, but I started smoking when I was about 14. I was so use the everytime I went to the Dr. them telling me that I needed to quit was like a broken record. I'm not stupid, I know it is not good for you, but never did I dream that I would be the one to get this disease...someone else, not me...When I got to the hospital my oxygen blood level was 80, I had the wheezy asthma, gasping for breath, could not talk attack, and then I thought they would probably give me a shot, give me some pills, an inhaler, and I would be good as new. Now it has been five days in the hospital...I feel a little better today, I can walk to the bathroom with out having an asthma attack..may get to go home tomorrow or next day...the dr. said if I do not quit smoking I will be dead within five years, if I quit I could possibly live 20...There is no choice to me, last Friday Morning I smoked my last cigarette, Thank you for sharing what happened to you, it did make a difference in how I will deal with the disease that took your loved one from you. Thank You Wendy...Melody

      December 14, 2011 at 20:36 | Report abuse |
  3. Chris

    My mom just died from COPD in February of this year. She was 79. She smoked in her 20's but wasn't a heavy smoker and hadn't had a cigarette in 40 years. What she and her doctors thought started out as asthma, turned into COPD. The last 5 years of her life she was on oxygen 24/7 and every inhaler/medication to help her breathe. It was very painful to watch her health get worse as the years went on and to see her struggle with every breath. All she wanted was to be able to breathe for 1/2 hour without any effort. Our family felt so helpless watching her suffer with this disease. She is at peace now and isn't suffering anymore. I miss her very much.

    March 16, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joanie

      My mom died at age of 68 from COPD. It was horrible to watch.

      March 16, 2011 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
    • InGA

      I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my mom to emphysema last year. It is hard watching someone you love struggle. In the end, even the ventilator could not help. Heartbreaking.

      March 16, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
  4. Doug

    I believe that 99% of the time COPD is caused by smoking.

    The answer is to stop. Sadly, once you have damaged your lungs you can't undo the damage.

    March 16, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Believe whatever you want though it is irrelevant as epidemiological studies demonstrate that the number is much closer to 80% +/-. That is 80% of COPD patients have a history of cigarette smoking (either former or current). Beyond that only 20-40% of long term smokers develop the disease so there is obviously a genetic component.

      http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6146a2.htm

      October 3, 2013 at 20:26 | Report abuse |
  5. OvernOut

    My husband may have COPD, he is 54 and a life-long nonsmoker and has never lived with smokers nor worked with them. We built our home 20 years ago using safe, allergy-proof materials, and no one has ever smoked in here. He is genetically predisposed to COPD, all the men in his immediate line (father, grandfather, father's brother) died from lung disease. Two of my husband's brothers have sleep apnea, and have devices to help them breathe at night, the other brother has severe asthma. Hemochromatosis was a factor for some of these relatives (too much iron in the blood), but not in my husband's case. We are hoping early detection will work for him, he has great longevity genes otherwise–and no one is obese, either.

    March 16, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill Clark

      If your husband has a family history of COPD it is very possible that he might have Alpha-1, which is a genetic (the one we know of) form of COPD. Alpha-1 occurs when the body does not secrete a protien called anti-trypsin which counter-acts elastsis which is produced by our body to clean soft tissue especially the lungs. This causes emphysema. The good news is that there is a treatment for Alpha-1. For more information contact the Alpha-1 Foundation on the web at http://www.alpha-1foundation.org. You can also get info on obtaining a free test kit. Please make the call!

      March 16, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      I agree with Bill. Your husband (and you and his siblings) need to be tested. Alpha-1 causes lung and liver disease. There are treatments available that are different than the treatment for COPD (there are some that are similar also like inhalers) that can prove beneficial. Check out the website that was mentioned, there are free tests available

      March 17, 2011 at 03:57 | Report abuse |
  6. Denise

    My mother was diagnosed with COPD a couple of years ago.She also has emphysema.She stopped smoking for 10 days while she was in the hospital but as soon as she was released,she lit up again.She didn't even crave a cigarette when she was in the hospital.I guess,when she got out of the hospital and got back home,she started smoking because it was a habit.I have tried for years to get her to stop but she won't.she is 71 now and has been smoking since her teen years.I myself am not a smoker.I can't stand the smell.My mother has damaged her lungs beyond repair.I just dread the day that her condition gets worse.She means the world to me.

    March 16, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Meh

    Someone once told a joke saying that the healthiest person in the world would be laughed at when he was on his deathbed dying from nothing.
    Telling a senior loved one that he/she should stop something they have loved their whole life? No way. Its disrespectful after a fashion. Its almost like telling them they havent lived their life properly. We all want our loved ones to be there forever but that isnt what life is about. Life is about the dying. A great movie I saw taught me something else..."get busy living or get busy dying." The other thing about that statement is that you have to live life to the fullest in your own way and if you love smoking, then so be it. Cigars are way better than cigarettes in my opinion and that is what I shall enjoy as my way of living my way.
    See you on the other side (not in heaven or hell because there is no such thing)

    March 16, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Smoking Blows

      "Telling a senior loved one that he/she should stop something they have loved their whole life? No way. Its disrespectful after a fashion."

      Your right, after reaching a certain age it becomes pointless to keep lecturing a loved one who has already beat the odds, and it does border on disrespectful. But, to call a nicotine addiction "love" is something someone working in the tobacco industry might use to rationalize their contribution to the death of millions of people.

      March 20, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
  8. Lori

    My Dad passed away at 73 in September of last year. He too was a smoker for many many years. Although he was first diagnosed with COPD may years ago, it really caught up with him during the last three years. He had to go on Oxygen and was no longer able to climb even a few stairs . No begging or pleading to get him to quit worked. He was so addicted to his cigarettes and knew they would eventally kill him but they had a strong hold over him he just couldnt do it. The last month of his life was very painful to watch as struggled to breathe even with the oxygen. How I wished he could have just quit when he first found out many years ago he maybe could have still been here, as he had no other major health issues. If you or a loved one suffers from this terrible disease please try with all your might to quit while you still can breathe, not only will it help you but will help your love ones try and deal with your condition and not have to watch the suffering that comes with this horrible illness. Widhe he could still be here with us but not in that condition .. Trying to remembering him as the healthy person he once was ...

    March 16, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bonnie Wood

    I have chronic bronchitis, but not from smoking. I had Strep Throat when I was a kid. Both my in-laws died from smoking. My father -in-law also worked with asbestos wrapped pipes in a machine shop for over two decades,so his lungs were gone by the time he passed. I quit smoking because my Mom is a bad asthmatic plus she has allergies.I quit smoking after not even two years almost forty years ago, and my lungs are clear. The popular quip that cigarettes are cancer sticks is too real for too many people.l

    March 16, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LB

    My husband was diagnosed with Chronic Bronchitis after a bout of pneumonia that was very difficult to clear up. They did not explain tha Chronic Bronchitis was considered COPD & we did not even know until a nurse pointed it out several years later. He uses an emergency inhaler occasionally & a once daily inhaler. Sometimes things jsut happen.....

    March 16, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jessica

    I have had asthma since I was about 9 years old. Now I'm 25, and I have chronic bronchitis. I use a rescue inhaler, an inhaled steroid, and I am put on prednisone every winter, because I get horribly sick between October and March. I have never smoked in my life, and didn't live with smokers growing up. No clue how I ended up with this...

    March 16, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jennifer

      you should consider getting tested for Alpha 1.

      March 17, 2011 at 03:59 | Report abuse |
  12. Kathy

    I've been reading these posts and most of the people were in their 70's. I was diagnosed with COPD when I was 47, I kept smoking and got so bad I had to quit work and go on disability at the age 50. I went thru not only dealing with the disease, but a depression that lasted for at least 2 years. I had family to help me but I am a single mother and my kids were 13 and 17. They suffered watching me get worse with this horrible disease. That was worse than the disease. The worst part was I was STILL Secretly SMOKING. I'. not going to bore you with the sad part. Lets just say I was waiting to die. I'm happy to say I've been smoke free for over 3 years and was lucky enough to have "lung volume reduction surgery" in nov.of 2010. It isn't a cure but a have been given a second chance as long as I follow a healthy diet an EXCERSIZE! Even if I only get 2 more years, at least I will have a much better quality of life

    March 16, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Thomas

    My mom died from second biggest cause of smoking which was CHF(congestive heart failure). The doctors never
    told us what she had when she was diagnosed with COPD. I tried to get her to to quit smoking but being over 80 years
    old she was going to do it anyway.

    March 16, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. meee

    I quit smoking 4 years ago after 34 years of it and to this day i get cravings for nicotine. .not the smoke the nicotine. .crazy

    March 16, 2011 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daina

      Nicotine doesn't cause cancer; it's a pure alkaloid drug found naturally in Tobacco thus nicotine in pure form (gum, patches) is not carcinogenic although it's not exactly healthy. You crave it because it's the most addictive drug on the planet so I'd say that's normal!

      March 17, 2011 at 02:02 | Report abuse |
  15. 66Biker

    I smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years and I think that Doctors and Pharmaceutical companies are the barrier to what makes quitting smoking easy. They want you to keep going to Doctors, who will charge you major money and keep sending you to your pharmacy to get more drugs. You don't need to do any of that. I decided it was time for me to quit, so I quit. Just like that. No pills, no patches, no lozenges, no drugs of any kind... I just stopped smoking. It doesn't make sense to trade one addiction for another one, and that is exactly what all those "quit smoking aids" are doing. It doesn't matter whether you get the nicotine from a cigarette, a cigar, a pipe, or a pill, a lozenge, or a patch. If you put it into your body you are still feeding your addiction. JUST QUIT and you can break that cycle. Quit for one hour at a time. After one hour goes by, stay quit for another hour. After three days your body will be nicotine free. Then it's just a matter of training yourself to not be a smoker. It's a lot easier than they want you to think it is... YOU CAN DO IT!

    March 17, 2011 at 05:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nancy

      I read your comment and was inspired....I smoke up to 2 packs a day and I can honestly say that 80% of the time, i actually HATE it !!! I am so addicted and want to stop in the worst way..I have a family and a grandson and so much to live for....but with daily stress, working 2 jobs I can't seem to...I am crying as I am reading this as I am so disgusted with myself and lack of willpower.....Please email some more words of advise.....Thanks....ps...I work at a cemetery and funeral homr....go figure !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 17, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • marcia

      @ on trying to quit, I quit so many times I quit counting.Finally my breathing was starting to get bad. I knew I was killing myself with every puff.I took. I was told by my Dr. I had COPD. . I decided if I couldn't do it myself, I would ask God to give me the strength to never crave another tobacco product, for as long as I live. I threw them in the trash that night and thank God I have not had any desire or craving sence then. I was week, but I knew God can do all things, all you have to do is ask, He blessed me with the strength to do what I had to do. I have given thanks to him every day sence then. I regret not turning to him many,many years ago for help. But, Praise God he has delivered me from all Tobacco. Blessings on your journey, like 66Biker said YOU CAN DO IT.....

      March 18, 2011 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
  16. mmi16

    My father passed with what is now called COPD. He had several hospital stays before the last one, each time he got out of the hospital his first stop on the way home was to buy a carton of cigarettes. I smoked at the time, and continued to for 6 years after his passing. I quit smoking 'cold turkey' on will power and toothpicks. I have now been smoke free for 26 years. While I am nowhere near COPD, through my exercise program I can tell that my lung capacity is slowly decreasing as I age.

    March 17, 2011 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. JIm

    Actually, it's the third leading cause of death now. One would think CNN reporters might research their work before going to press.

    March 17, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. mike

    My Mom's in the hospital right now – At 57 She's got COPD and she's suffering bad – She's on a ventilator, they keep trying to test her to see if she can come off of it and she keeps failing the test – I'm hurting bad right now...There's nothing I can do to help

    March 18, 2011 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Niki

      I am in this situation right now. I am scared for my mom. She has been on a vent for 5 days and not being able to get off yet. It is killing me to see her like this.:(

      April 10, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse |
  19. danita

    My best friend is 39 years old she had a open biopsy on monday. She is a nonsmoker, and tested negative for alpha 1 protein defficiency. Her pulmonologist can't figure out how she has emphysema now. I'm needing to find anyone who is a nonsmoker that's young and diagnosed with emphysema. They also said her lungs were to damaged to. Reverse it. I need answers for her please help or if anyone has heard of this rare emphysema we could use answers

    March 18, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dogwalker55297

      danita,
      I will be 34 years old in two weeks, I was diagnosed last year with COPD. I have never smoked, but have had a lifetime of second hand smoke. My mother has been a heavy smoker my entire life, and I was married to a pack a day man for 12 years. In the last seven months my condition has gone from "some mild COPD" to "mild to moderate COPD". I wish I had answers for you and your friend, but I don't even have any for myself. All I have are questions, and a teenage son to worry about. How much time do I have left? Will I make it to 50? How much longer will I be able to bike, kayak and camp before I need to carry around the dreaded oxygen tank. As a single woman I want to find a man who can take my breath away for the good romantic reasons, not the ugly reality of COPD.
      God willing, miraculous recoveries will happen for everyone of us.

      March 30, 2013 at 11:24 | Report abuse |
  20. Teresa

    I was diagnosed with emphysema and or early COPD today. I was prescribed Albuterol @ Spariva, will I be on these meds for the rest of my life? I am a smoker tryig to quit, 44 years old, have smoke since I was 15. I have done research here and I'm scared of what is ahead. I work in the med dialysis field and our building has mold due to all of the moisture. Could that be apart of my problem

    March 19, 2011 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Katelyn

    I'm the Communications Specialist for the COPD Foundation. There are lots of questions on here, and we're ready and willing to answer all of them. Feel free to browse our website: http://www.copdfoundaiton.org, or call our C.O.P.D. Information Line at 866-316-2673. It's staffed with individuals with COPD, so they can speak to you from experience. You are not alone in this. Find us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/COPDFoundation) or Twitter (@COPDFoundation). We're here to help you in any way we can!

    Thanks,
    Katelyn

    March 22, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katelyn

      RIght, that would be http://www.copdfoundation.org. Typed too fast!

      March 22, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Hello. my mom is 60 yrs old and has COPD. She has had it for about 7-8 years. In the past 2 yrs it has been bad. She quit smoking 2 yrs ago. Her Dr just put her on oxygen level 2. She is still working. She uses her oxygen as soon as she gets home and while she is asleep. She doesn't use it at work. She is an activity director for a nursing home. She is worried if she tells them her DR wants her on oxygen 24/7 she will be fired. We are fearful as a family as to how to pay for her medication until she would be approved for assistance. She lives on her own. My brother and I don't have room in our homes. We feel we could help maintain her living situation if we could get assistance for her medical needs. I'm not sure what stage she's in. She has had 2 exacerbations. The last one was January 1, 2011. She wheezes all the time. They put her on steroids which make her feel better but as she ends the dose she gets severe headaches. She has been off steroids for 3 weeks and Saturday she had another violent headache with vomitting. Dr's say thats due to the long use of steroids. I'm really at a loss as to where to go from here. She can still function but slower. Any advice is apprecaited. I'm finding it hard to know where to even start with her employer and if she is let go where we go from there. Thank you.

      November 10, 2011 at 16:16 | Report abuse |
  22. annie

    I have Marfans Syndrome which can cause early emphysemia. I quit smoking 30 yrs ago but the damage was already done. I feel I definitely get treated differently because of the diagnosis of COPD, and have to fight to stay above the depression I feel because I know I helped shortend my life. I was living with a puffer every so often and then had heart surgery and became much worse as far as breathing goes.

    March 23, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. gary

    today yahoo have a news, here is the web page: http://in.news.yahoo.com/traditional-chinese-herbal-paste-may-help-cut-exacerbations-111331089.html they say herb can treat copd. but 10 years ago in the USA have herb "SoupA", it is can treat copd and result by x-ray, why our medical system do not let patients know this? everything waiting China do first?

    May 17, 2011 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Nicole

    Hello. my mom is 60 yrs old and has COPD. She has had it for about 7-8 years. In the past 2 yrs it has been bad. She quit smoking 2 yrs ago. Her Dr just put her on oxygen level 2. She is still working. She uses her oxygen as soon as she gets home and while she is asleep. She doesn't use it at work. She is an activity director for a nursing home. She is worried if she tells them her DR wants her on oxygen 24/7 she will be fired. We are fearful as a family as to how to pay for her medication until she would be approved for assistance. She lives on her own. My brother and I don't have room in our homes. We feel we could help maintain her living situation if we could get assistance for her medical needs. I'm not sure what stage she's in. She has had 2 exacerbations. The last one was January 1, 2011. She wheezes all the time. They put her on steroids which make her feel better but as she ends the dose she gets severe headaches. She has been off steroids for 3 weeks and Saturday she had another violent headache with vomitting. Dr's say thats due to the long use of steroids. I'm really at a loss as to where to go from here. She can still function but slower. Any advice is apprecaited. I'm finding it hard to know where to even start with her employer and if she is let go where we go from there. Thank you.

    November 10, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Copd pictures

    Smoker's, or live with those that smoke, often cough a good deal. Their normally termed as cigarette smokers cough, playing with more than 80% of situations, it really is COPD. To only acquire ...copd

    January 25, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Rose Hilburn

    I started smoking when Iwas 14yrs old (thought it was cool) immediatly was addicted, was the best smoker(if you know what i mean) throughout high school and when I was 18 became a batrtender, of 22yrs. I inhaled enough smoke to choke the world daily, I can't say I didn't know the consiquinces and continued to smoke even after I left the profession at age 40 when I then took on a job at at huge warehouse as a salaried mgr. where I inhaled every type of harsh chemical sold including concrete and lawn chemicals, the floors were swept nightly and all the dust, dirt and spilage from these chemicals were in the air. I spent 10yrs at this job breathing in numerous harmful chemicals from broken bagged goods 18hr days were almost an every day average I have worked so long and so hard that the calm of a smoke was at minimum a reward compared to my work day. I have recently moved and am now in a situation where my kids are grown and my husband and I have realized we can survive on an hourly jobs pay. I have slowed down for the first time in my life to smell the roses but I have trouble breathing and can't smell as well as I used to due to COPD I have obviously had it for many years but have not realized it. I quit smoking 8 months ago and had a huge flare up of Bronchitis but when the ER Dr asked if I smoked and I replied I did for many yrs, bartented...bla bla bla,and did it to my self he replied, "well then I guess you already know what your chest x-rays read"... In the past I've just been diagonised with Bronchitis and figured I was just run down and couldn't fight off the infection, Yes the chest Xray revealed I was suffering from COPD andthe Dr did not bat an ey when he delivered the exppected news, why should he? I have decided what life I will spend it bettering everything I can especially the love my children missed out on while I was so buisily preparing to have a place to die like some one said earlier get busy living or get busy dying, don't get so busy trying to make a living that you forget to take care of your health. Before you know it your 50 with a sad story and nothing to cure your disease. Wow...

    March 22, 2012 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. jj2625

    COPD is not a death sentence. COPD is very progressive if you keep smoking or dont recognize what is progressing the damage. Simple life style changes do wonder for the disease. I've been diagnosed and continue to play paintball,cut two acres of grass by a hand mower amongst other things. I simply chose to wear masks in dusty areas, avoid smoky areas and dont spend too much time in areas where airborne pollutants are. Diet helps as well. Most of the stories on here are based on smokers who didnt quit. Keep your head up!!!

    January 20, 2013 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • shell

      wondering something i just got out of the hospital and am 42 they said phnemonia and copd. i smoked for 30 years. I just got a vapor machine, vapor cigs do you know if this is a good alternative to smoking.

      December 18, 2013 at 05:05 | Report abuse |
  28. Linda

    MY HUSBAND STEP MUM HATE HIM SO MUCH
    My man died 6 weeks ago after 12 month illness where he required increasing amounts of oxygen. I was told 6 months previously that he was about to die and we moved heaven and earth to get him home from hospital. My wonderful strong man carried on for 6 months despite what everyone said. I stopped work and we spent nights and days together mostly with me watching him almost suffocate to death every day. one day in September when there was no one else around I lay down beside him and fell asleep, when I woke up he had gone. I never believe that my husband death was natural..cos i know those that did not want his progress, every night and day i always cry i fill like killing my self because things where hard on my side, my husband family throw us out of the house me and my children where on the street begging for food and water..cos no and told me my husband death was not natural she told me i should not worry she is going to hmoney any more. one of my friend that i have not see for a very long time saw my on a street and she called my name, when i turn i was an old friend of mine, i explain every thing that happen she gave us accommodation elp me, will contact Dr Opingo who salve family problems i explain every thing about my husband to him and he said he will help me know about the death of my husband i was very happy that very day...cos i no something was behind my husband death and i see who is going to help me out, Dr ask me to send my husband picture, surname, and his name i did every thing immediately. After Dr Opingo have use the information i send him, two weeks later my husband step mum confess that she was the one that kill my husband through sickness...i am so happy i am free because the family believe that i kill my husband to take over the properties. thank you once again HELEN my best friend for introducing me to Dr Opingo you can contact his email if you still need his help alterofcandletemple@gmail.com

    January 28, 2013 at 06:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. DEBBIE

    My husband has got the first stage of copd and he want stop smoking im so worried it will turn into cancer he has s burning in his left lung could someone tell me if this is related to copd...

    April 22, 2013 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. sam

    hi my dad has just been diagnosed with copd and has gone for too x rays now and it should scaring on one of the lung my dad has had a 30 a day smoking habbit since age of 17 and has astmha too needing the blue inhaler the round inhaler and purple night inhaler is this far down the line in the illness is his live expectancey long he also has a very high fat diet but isnt overweight

    August 15, 2013 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. chelsea

    im 19 I was born premature at 6 months and was dying so they put me on a ventilator and finally got off at 3 or 4 months then had to go home on oxygen then had to go back a couple months later to be put back on the ventilator then back on oxygen and I was almost 2 before I could breath on my own well my lungs looked so bad like they've been scratched by a wild cat on the inside I guess because of the ventilator so they accepted me to draw a check from day 1 like when I was a baby till I was atleast 22 I got sick a couple months back and they referred me to a pulmonary specialist and he said I had chronic copd and prescribed me 2 special inhalators Spiriva symbicort and a rescue inhalator oh and nasalnex nose spray and I gotta take them daily and a week after I got them I had to go back to see if my lungs and breathing was getting any better and it was the same so it really sucks and ive been sleepy and fatigue a lot well I went for a test to see if I still was qualified just 2 weeks ago and I got a paper sayin ive been denied im just so aggravated not cause I may not get money anymore im gonna try to appeal it but there are people out there that have no problem that affects their ability to work and get it and work on the side to make more money I know someone who does it I mean I tried working I really did at a daycare for 4 months but it just about killed me I got sick all the time and I cant even clean my whole house without getting outta breath and feeling fatigue and feeling like crying much less chase kids around all day maybe im being unfair but it just makes me sick

    September 1, 2013 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Jack Wilson

    C O P D is linked to smoking and causes death if you don't quit right away....if you do quit ....its a slower death .....I feel

    November 18, 2013 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. marla

    my mom was 83 years old when she passed in 2010 but the question i have she was on oxygen in a assited living quarters and the came in and jack hammered her cement floor while she was in the room on oxygen what are the odds that this helped alon her passing she was doing ok on 2 liters of o2 on the 12th of month and dead on the 18th of month when the did this in the 12th could this have brought on her death by inhaling that cement she was coughing up grey like stuff that looked like cement is this possible

    December 28, 2013 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Smudger

    It would be great if we could hear just one happy story about COPD. Give us all a lift!!, Good luck to you all.

    January 17, 2014 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.