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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 fourth 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.

“Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, as we call it, is a general term that encompasses the conditions of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  And, also sometimes asthma, but the common feature of those conditions is that there is difficulty moving air in and out of the lungs through the bronchial tubes or airways and it is or can be a very serious condition.”

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.

“We have people stop smoking and there are a variety of medications that can improve the function of the lungs and lessen symptoms especially shortness of breath and cough.  In more advanced disease beyond medication and smoking cessation, treatments might include oxygen and exercise therapy.” 

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.

Ruth Slottag