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Treating Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at St. Luke's

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease makes it hard for you to breathe. Coughing up mucus is often the first sign of COPD. In healthy people, both the airways and air sacs of the lungs are springy and elastic. In COPD, the airways and air sacs lose their shape and do not work properly. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Quitting smoking is the best way to avoid developing COPD.

Two Types of COPD

Chronic bronchitis – an inflammation of the main airways in the lungs that continues for a long period or keeps coming back

Emphysema – Emphysema is a lung disease that keeps getting worse. Shortness of breath and decreasing ability to do physical activity are signs of emphysema.

COPD Signs and Symptoms

  • Coughing
  • Mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness of the chest

COPD Causes

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to pollution
  • Family history

COPD Tests

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT Scan 
  • Pulmonary Function Test
  • Arterial Blood Gas Test
  • Pulse Oximetry Test
  • Sputum Culture

COPD Treatment and Care

Using an instrument that measures how much air can be exhaled, COPD can be measured and the right treatment recommended.

Stage 0 – This is the least severe level of COPD. Lung function is considered to be within normal levels, but the patient has coughing and excessive sputum. Treatment may simply be the elimination of possible risk factors.

Stage 1 – Considered to be a “mild,” stage 1 is when the patient can exhale at least 50 percent of the air in one second. Severe breathlessness is common, but the affect on the person's quality of life is small. This stage can be treated with inhaled medications.

Stage 2 – This is considered a “moderate” stage of COPD and has a big impact on quality of life. Lung function testing shows the patient having less than 50 percent of normal lung function. Moderate COPD can be treated with one or more bronchodilators or inhaled medications.

Stage 3 – Stage 3 of COPD is considered “severe” and lung function is less than 35 percent of what is normal. Quality of life is impacted greatly, and the disease may be life-threatening. Severe COPD can be treated with one or more bronchodilators, inhaled glucocorticosteroids, and other inhaled medications. Oxygen and mucus thinners also may be prescribed.