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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. COPD is a permanent, progressive disease and people with it typically develop shortness of breath over time.
In the United States, COPD, like many heart diseases, is overwhelmingly the result of smoking tobacco products and industrial exposures. “The most important thing a person with suspected COPD can do is to quit smoking,” says IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider Bradley Erickson, MD, a specialist in the field of pulmonary critical care. “The best results are achieved if the entire household is nonsmoking and there’s an overall avoidance of triggers for smoking.”
In addition to shortness of breath, other indicators of COPD can include a decrease in stamina and endurance, the development of a cough and possible wheezing. As the disease progresses, the lungs have more difficulty delivering oxygen throughout the body, and oxygen often has to be supplemented. As those with COPD work harder to breathe, they tend to lose weight and become unable to tolerate larger meals.
Dr. Erickson says that the best tests for COPD are pulmonary function tests. “These allow the physician to assess the lungs and can reveal patterns that suggest COPD.” If a person is diagnosed with COPD, there are various treatment options available. Supplemental oxygen is often needed and there are various inhalers with combinations of medicines that can minimize the symptoms associated with COPD.
People with severe COPD may be candidates for a lung transplant. Less severe cases may respond to treatments prescribed by a physician and they can improve their quality of life by getting regular exercise or even joining pulmonary rehabilitation programs.
If a person suspects that he or she or a loved one may have COPD, talk to a primary care provider as soon as possible in order to start a proper treatment plan.
Featured IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider seeing patients for pulmonary or lung-related issues:
Bradley Erickson, MD