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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment Plans

At Bhat Internal Medicine, we make the needs and treatment of our patients our highest priority. In addition to treating a wide variety of internal disorders, Dr. Muralikrishna Bhat has a great deal of experience with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He can work with you to develop a treatment plan that is catered to your situation and diagnosis.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that makes breathing extremely difficult. COPD is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time. Currently, approximately 12 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD, with many more affected without realizing they have the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that COPD was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2011.

Causes and symptoms

In the United States, tobacco smoking is the leading cause of COPD. There are two main types of COPD: chronic bronchitis which involves long-term coughing with mucus, and emphysema, which involves permanent damage to the lungs over time. Many people with COPD have a combination of both conditions.

While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, other factors may contribute to the disease. These include exposure to certain gasses or fumes, exposure to large amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution, or frequent use of cooking fire without proper ventilation.

Patients who have developed COPD commonly share a number of symptoms, including:

  • Persistent cough (with or without mucus)
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty catching breath
  • Multiple respiratory infections
  • Fatigue

However, because COPD symptoms develop slowly over time, many people do not realize they have the disease.

Diagnosis and treatment

In order to diagnose COPD, Dr. Bhat may perform a number of tests to confirm the disease. The most effective COPD test is a lung function test, where the patient exhales as hard as they can into a small device that measures long capacity.

Listening to the lungs may be helpful in diagnosing COPD as well, though lungs could sound normal even when a patient is suffering from COPD. Imaging tests such as CT scans and X-rays may also aid in diagnosis, but are not always conclusive. Finally, some patients may need to have a blood test, known as an arterial blood gas, to measure the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

While there is no cure for COPD, there are many treatment and lifestyle changes you can use to slow the progress of the disease and live in relative comfort. First and foremost, if you are a smoker you should quit immediately. Smoking is the primary cause of COPD, and continued exposure will only accelerate the disease.

It is advised to avoid factors that can advance the disease and cause flare ups as much as possible. This includes avoiding very cold air and exposure to pollution, smoke and other irritants.

Dietary changes can help improve your overall health and slow the progression of the disease. Diets that include recommended amounts of fish, lean meats, and fruits and vegetables are ideal.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend continued treatment such as inhalers, anti-inflammatory drugs or oxygen therapy.

If you believe you are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, we encourage you to contact Dr. Bhat’s office as soon as possible. We accept most major insurance plans. To schedule an appointment, or for more information about COPD, contact Dr. Bhat’s office at 520-290-9151 today.