Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Emphysema)

What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is characterized by the inability of air to move thought the airways or bronchial tubes.  This is similar to the disease of asthma; however, asthma is usually reversible with medications.  The limitation in COPD is usually progressive and is associated with inflammation.

What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by?

Largely, this disease is caused by cigarette smoking.  Occasionally, genetic conditions (such as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency) can also contribute to COPD.  Environmental risk factors in addition to tobacco smoke include exposure to heavy exposure to dusts, chemicals and air pollution.

What are the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

The main symptoms are cough, sputum production/bronchitis, shortness of breath, a low oxygen level, and wheezing.

How is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease diagnosed?

The diagnosis of COPD is made using pulmonary function testing to assess for airflow limitation.

How is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treated?

The treatment and management of COPD includes reduction of environmental triggers and exposure primarily through smoking cessation and vaccine maintenance to prevent infection as well as pharmacologic and physiologic therapies.  These therapies may be in the form of inhalers, corticosteroids or specialized physical therapy.  Also, if needed oxygen therapy can be prescribed.

What can I expect on my first visit to PCCS?

Pulmonary function testing and a chest x-ray will be done to evaluate for COPD.  A medical history and physical examination will be done.  Some follow up labs or tests such as a CT scan may be ordered if needed.