FAQ: COPD

  • How is COPD treated? What are things people at risk can do?

    There are many things people at risk for COPD can do:

    1. Quit Smoking: If you smoke, the best thing you can do to prevent more damage to your lungs is to quit. To help you quit, there are many online resources and several new aids available from your healthcare provider.
    2. Avoid Exposure to Pollutants: Try to stay away from other things that could irritate your lungs, like dust and strong fumes. Stay indoors when the outside air quality is poor. You could also stay away from places where there might be cigarette smoke.
    3. Visit Your Doctor or Healthcare Provider on a Regular Basis:See your doctor or healthcare provider regularly even if you are feeling fine. Make a list of your breathing symptoms and think about any activities that you can no longer do because of shortness of breath. Be sure to bring a list of all the medicines you are taking to each office visit.
    4. Take Precautions Against Seasonal Flu: Do your best to avoid crowds during flu season. It is also a good idea to get a flu shot every year, since the flu can cause serious problems for people with COPD. You should also ask your provider about the pneumonia vaccine.
  • What are COPD inhalers?

    COPD inhalers are used as a part of COPD treatment. The inhalers have either a single medication or a combination of medications in one inhaler such as a bronchodilator, a corticosteroid, a combination of bronchodilators or a combination of bronchodilator and corticosteroid. Here are few brand names as follows: Advair, Symbicort, Pulmicort, Spiriva, Proventil, Atrovent and Combivent.

  • What are common signs and symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?

    Signs and Symptoms:

    1. Cough, an ongoing cough that produces lot of mucus.
    2. Shortness of breath, especially on any physical exertion like climbing stairs or walking fast etc.
    3. Wheezing sound, when you breathe in
    4. Occasionally sensation of a tight chest
    5. If you have a history of chronic smoking, the severity of your symptoms will depend on how much lung damage you have. If you keep smoking, the damage will occur faster than if you stop smoking.

    Severe COPD can cause other symptoms, such as swelling in your ankles, feet, or legs weight loss and lower muscle endurance.

    Your doctor will diagnose COPD based on your signs, symptoms, you medical history and your test results.

  • How is COPD treated?

    The most important treatment if you are a smoker is to stop smoking immediately. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines that widen the breathing tubes (bronchodilators), reduce swelling in the breathing tubes (anti-inflammatory drugs) or treat infection (antibiotics). 

    Aerosol Therapy: Aerosol therapy is the process of dispensing particles of medication in a fine spray or mist by way of a nebulizer or inhaler. The medications frequently used during this process are bronchodilators. 

    Oxygen Therapy: Supplemental oxygen therapy is often helpful to people who have a low level of oxygen in their blood. You will need to be assessed first by a respiratory medicine specialist who will test your lung function to see if you would benefit from oxygen therapy

  • What is COPD?

    COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is a long-term lung disease often caused by smoking. People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways, called airflow obstruction. 

    Typical symptoms of COPD include: increasing breathlessness when active, a persistent cough with phlegm and frequent chest infections. It usually affects people over the age of 35, although most people are not diagnosed until they are in their fifties. COPD is usually diagnosed after a consultation with your doctor, which may be followed by breathing tests.

    COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
    COPD is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States and a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. You may have heard COPD called other names, like emphysema or chronic bronchitis. In people who have COPD, the airways—tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs—are partly blocked, which makes it hard to get air in and out.

    Symptoms of COPD include:

    • Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough”
    • Shortness of breath while doing activities you used to be able to do
    • Excess sputum production
    • Feeling like you can’t breathe
    • Not being able to take a deep breath
    • Wheezing

    When COPD is severe, shortness of breath and other symptoms can get in the way of doing even the most basic tasks, such as doing light housework, taking a walk, and even bathing and getting dressed. COPD develops slowly, and can worsen over time, so be sure to report any symptoms you might have to your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible, no matter how mild they may seem.
    Most people who are at risk for getting COPD have never even heard of it and, in many cases, don’t even realize that the condition has a name. Some of the things that put you at risk for COPD include:

    • Smoking: COPD most often occurs in people age 40 and over with a history of smoking (either current or former smokers), although as many as 1 out of 6 people with COPD never smoked. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD—it accounts for as many as 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths.
    • Environmental Exposure: COPD can also occur in people who have had long-term exposure to things that can irritate your lungs, like certain chemicals, dust, or fumes in the workplace. Heavy or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or other air pollutants may also contribute to COPD.
    • Genetic Factors: In some people, COPD is caused by a genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin, or AAT, deficiency. While very few people know they have AAT deficiency, it is estimated that as many as 100,000 Americans have it. People with AAT deficiency can get COPD even if they have never smoked or had long-term exposure to harmful pollutants.

    Everyone at risk for COPD who has a cough, sputum production or shortness of breath, should be tested for the disease. The test for COPD is called spirometry. Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms become severe. It is a simple, noninvasive breathing test that measures the amount of air a person can blow out of the lungs (volume) and how fast he or she can blow it out (flow). Based on this test, your doctor or healthcare provider can tell if you have COPD, and if so, how severe it is. The spirometry reading can help determine the best course of treatment.


    Dr. Rakesh Gupta M.D
    Director of Sleep Disorders Center, Providence, RI.