Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Office of Public Affairs Newsline - GERD


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November 19, 2013


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a serious lung disease that over time makes it difficult for people to breathe.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third leading cause of death and the second leading cause of disability in the United States.  In people who have COPD, the airways are partially blocked, which makes it hard to get air in and out of the lungs.  Dr. Joseph Henkle, professor and chief of pulmonary medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the disease.

“... COPD is a general term that encompasses the conditions of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and some people include some chronic forms of bad asthma in there as well. It’s a serious condition that tends to be progressive.”

Dr. Henkle says symptoms of COPD are breathlessness during exercise, especially in older individuals.  Also, individuals may experience smoker’s cough, on a daily basis coughing up small bits of discolored phlegm.  He offers some treatment options to help manage the disease.

“First and foremost, if there is an identified cause from cigarette smoke or some other environmental, occupational exposure that’s contributing to the lung problem, avoidance of that is very important. Then we can use medications to manage symptoms.”

Dr. Henkle encourages anyone who has symptoms of COPD to see their primary care physician.  They may be referred to a pulmonologist for further evaluation and possible treatment.  He also suggests that individuals with lung diseases get flu and pneumonia vaccinations and stop smoking if they are a smoker.

Ruth Slottag

Phone 217-545-8000
P.O. Box 19620
Springfield, IL 62794-9620
The mission of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research, and service to the community.


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