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These Treatments Offer a Sigh of Relief for Those Suffering From COPD

October 20, 2022

16 million Americans are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. This non-reversible disease often makes breathing difficult and affects quality of life. “It basically means that air is getting into your lungs, but has difficulty getting out due to damage in the airways for a variety of reasons,” says Moshe Zutler, MD, pulmonologist with the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. > Worried about your lungs? Connect with an expert

What causes COPD?

“In the U.S., the number one cause of COPD is smoking or smoke exposure. That’s what I see with the vast majority of my patients,” says Zutler. However, Dr. Zutler says there can be other causes, such as living in areas with a high concentration of air pollution or working in environments with exposure to fumes or chemicals. Dr. Zutler says that over time, smoke and irritants get into the airways and destroy the tissue that helps produce oxygen and decreases the flow of air in and out of your lungs. “This tends to develop when people are in their 50s, 60s and 70s, but I’ve seen it happen even younger in some patients,” says Zutler. > Want more health news? Text MoreLife to 31996 to sign up for text alerts

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COPD include:
  • Wheezing, trouble exhaling
  • Shortness of breath when walking short distances or going up stairs
  • A whistling sound when you breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Chest congestion, chronic cough

What are the treatment options?

“Breathing medications such as inhalers can help open your airways, reduce inflammation and make breathing a little easier and ultimately improve quality of life,” says Zutler. Medication can also be used to help improve airflow. For severe cases of COPD, surgical advancements can help by collapsing a portion of the lung that’s damaged. This allows the healthier parts of the lung to handle the breathing and relieve symptoms. “COPD can be deadly if left untreated – especially among those who continue to smoke,” says Zutler. “That’s when we see patients become oxygen-dependent and lung function continues to decline. Anyone who thinks they may have COPD or is struggling with their symptoms should see a doctor and quit smoking. Intervening early is key so we can improve quality of life,” he says.