• What is COPD?

    Pulmonary Medicine

    March 2, 2017

    71193bfa37371c4fd69c77b0df42cc7d_f2759.jpgChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that makes it hard to breathe. Although there is no cure, treatment can improve quality of life.

    What's in a name?

    To understand COPD, it may help to break down its name.

    Chronic means long-lasting. COPD is progressive—it gets worse over time.

    Obstructive refers to the fact that airflow is obstructed—air can't move freely in and out of the lungs. Obstruction may be from chronic bronchitis (swelling and excess phlegm in the airways), emphysema (damage to lung tissue), or both.

    Pulmonary disease means disease of the lungs. Pulmo is Latin for lung.

    Fighting for air

    COPD can be life-threatening—it's a leading cause of death in the United States.

    Signs and symptoms of the disease include:

    • Shortness of breath—especially during physical activity.
    • A cough that doesn't go away or that produces a lot of mucus.
    • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaking sound when breathing).
    • Frequent colds.

    Early on, COPD may not cause symptoms.

    Breathe better

    As many as 8 out of 10 cases of COPD are caused by smoking. Other risk factors include genetics and exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants.

    For smokers, the most important treatment is to quit smoking.

    Other treatments include:

    • Exercise to help the body use oxygen more efficiently.
    • Medicines, such as bronchodilators and steroids.
    • Pulmonary rehabilitation, a program that may include exercise training and nutritional and psychological counseling.
    • Supplemental oxygen.

    In some cases, surgery or lung transplantation may be necessary.

    • Loud Snoring May Be a Sign of Sleep Apnea

      If you frequently wake in the morning without feeling completely rested and have a difficult time staying awake during the day, or your bed partner complains about your loud snoring at night, you may have sleep apnea.

      read more

    • Cardiac Ablation Therapy at Bassett Healthcare Network

      Fred Hendricks lived with an abnormal heart rhythm for years and because his heart wasn’t working right, he had significant trouble getting around. Then he met Dr. James Storey and the rest of the electrophysiology team at Bassett, who fixed Fred’s bad heart using a technique known as cryoablation.

      read more