Chicago Health | Homepage
Ask the Harvard Experts: Prevent COPD flare-ups to improve quality of life

Ask the Harvard Experts: Prevent COPD flare-ups to improve quality of life

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Q: My father’s doctor recently diagnosed him with a COPD exacerbation. What is this? How can it be prevented from happening again?

A: Smokers and ex-smokers worry most about lung cancer. But another smoking-related disease causes more disability, more days in the hospital and almost as many deaths as lung cancer. The disease is COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. More than 80 percent of people with COPD are current or former smokers. Most are over age 40. Women are more likely to develop it than men. The reason isn’t known, but it’s not because women smoke more. While the gap has narrowed, women still smoke less than men.

The main features of COPD are less flow of air into and out of the lungs, symptoms that usually get worse over time and permanent damage to the lungs and bronchial tubes.

Many people with COPD also go through flare-ups. Doctors call them COPD exacerbations. Typical symptoms of a flare-up include coughing more than usual, a change in the color of coughed-up mucus, increased shortness of breath, wheezing and fatigue.

Preventing COPD exacerbations is important. Compared with COPD patients who have few or no flare-ups, those with frequent flare-ups lose lung function at a faster rate, have a poorer quality of life and die sooner.

Flare-ups happen because the lungs’ airways get infected, inflamed or both.

If your father has COPD and still smokes, he must quit now. Quitting smoking is the only chance he has to prevent the disease from getting worse.

Drugs for COPD cannot slow down the eventual decline in lung function. However, they can allow people to breathe a little easier, with less coughing. They also help prevent COPD flare-ups.

Commonly used drugs for COPD help people in different ways:

1. Corticosteroid inhalers reduce inflammation.

2. Beta-agonist inhalers improve air flow by relaxing the airways. Some inhalers combine a long-acting beta-agonist with a corticosteroid.

3. Anticholinergic inhalers also improve air flow. They have a different way of relaxing bronchial tubes.

(Howard LeWine, M.D. is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2016 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Can you be held responsible for your parents’ long-term-care costs?

Can you be held responsible for your parents’ long-term-care costs?

By Eleanor Laise, Kiplinger Retirement Report When an older adult racks up unpaid long-term-care bills, who's

Rare syndrome causes overly flexible joints, fragile skin

Rare syndrome causes overly flexible joints, fragile skin

Mayo Clinic Q&A DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I was recently diagnosed with vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. My doctor

Calcium is crucial for long-term bone health

Calcium is crucial for long-term bone health

Mayo Clinic Q&A DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Should all postmenopausal women take calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis,

De-stress your life

De-stress your life

By Sandra Block, Kiplinger Personal Finance How stressed-out are we? Consider this: In some cities, "rage

Beyond Opioids: New guidelines offer safest ways to control pain

Beyond Opioids: New guidelines offer safest ways to control pain

By Cleveland Clinic's Chronic Conditions Team In the past, if you had minor surgery or an

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

January 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
December 25, 2016 December 26, 2016 December 27, 2016 December 28, 2016 December 29, 2016 December 30, 2016 December 31, 2016
January 1, 2017 January 2, 2017 January 3, 2017 January 4, 2017 January 5, 2017 January 6, 2017 January 7, 2017
January 8, 2017 January 9, 2017 January 10, 2017 January 11, 2017 January 12, 2017 January 13, 2017 January 14, 2017
January 15, 2017 January 16, 2017 January 17, 2017 January 18, 2017 January 19, 2017 January 20, 2017 January 21, 2017
January 22, 2017 January 23, 2017 January 24, 2017 January 25, 2017 January 26, 2017 January 27, 2017 January 28, 2017
January 29, 2017 January 30, 2017 January 31, 2017 February 1, 2017 February 2, 2017 February 3, 2017 February 4, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives