Tag Archives: COPD

DR. C’S JOURNAL: COPD -CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE

COPD is the brother of asthma. Both can cause shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma is the more Treatable of the two, and is due to muscle spasm around the airways which narrow those airways making it more difficult to breathe in and especially out.

COPD comes in 2 general forms,  Chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways, which differs from the usual allergic asthmatic TH2 type of inflammation. The inflammation of chronic bronchitis is the more common TH1 inflammation that comes from the likes of bacteria and viruses.

The second type of COPD is usually caused by cigarette smoke or other fumes which lead to the destruction of the air sacs and associated elastic tissue, allowing a check valve type of obstruction to occur on breathing out.

COPD is rarely a pure type of chronic bronchitis or emphysema, and is usually an admixture of the two. In fact there can be an “asthmatic element” mixed into COPD, which allows for a better response to the myriads of medication that we now have for asthma.

The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and chronic cough with production of sputum. Coughing up a significant volume of phlegm from your chest suggests chronic bronchitis rather than emphysema.

The symptoms of COPD come on rather slowly and are usually not noticed until the problem is severe. After all, the cigarette smoker is EXPECTED to cough isn’t he?

As COPD becomes very advanced, fatigue, lack of energy, and unintended weight loss may occur. Swelling of the legs may be a problem and could indicate involvement of a heart; with COPD the right side of the heart has a hard time moving blood through the diseased lungs.

We’ve all seen people pushing around a cart with an oxygen tank. These people most often are smokers who developed COPD. One particularly disgusting advertisement against cigarette smoking showed a person with a hole in the windpipe (tracheostomy) through which he was smoking his cigarette.

Pulmonary function testing it’s often helpful in diagnosing asthma and COPD. In pulmonary function testing, the amount of air in the lungs  and the rapidity with which it can be expelled from the Lungs is measured and graphed. it is the rate of flow on exhalation that is diminished in COPD and asthma, the slower the rate the worse the blockage.

In the case of asthma the test is repeated after a bronchodilating adrenaline type medication has been given. The REVERSIBILITY of the airway obstruction is shown by comparing the airway function before and after treatment  With no improvement, usually COPD is usually the culprit.

In both asthma and COPD, respiratory infection is a big problem. The compromised lung is usually very vulnerable to these inflammatory reactions. There are a score of medications  that are commonly used in asthma which also benefit COPD to a certain degree. Doctors have a large armamentarium for respiratory disease these days.
As mentioned, asthma is more treatable. However if it is poorly treated or neglected, a condition known as REMODELING can occur which will render treatment less effectual.

Please check with the Mayo clinic article on COPD for more information.

—Dr. C.

Mayo Clinic article

INFECTION: OPPORTUNISTIC INVASIVE FUNGI EXPLAINED

Fungi are in the outside air, the inside air, and even the air of isolation units In hospitals. The normal human respiratory tract is able to breathe these fungi in, have them deposited on the mucous membrane surfaces and have no problem. The normal respiratory membranes, with their associated cleansing cilia and normal mucus production are able to sweep the invaders out without sustaining any harm.

Problems arise when the respiratory tract is functionally or structurally abnormal, such as in cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and COPD. Immunocompromised conditions have been increasing in frequency with the improvement in medical care in recent years. Intravascular catheters and sensors can provide a resting place for pathogens including fungi, as can cavities, scars and other damage to the lung. The immune system may require suppression to accommodate an organ transplants or ameliorate autoimmune conditions.

Cancers, especially of the hematologic or lymphatic system, such as lymphomas, pose a definite problem. Severe burns and  malnutrition may weaken the immune system, as may Viral infections, especially AIDS, and more recently COVID-19. More subtle immune problems may arise with diabetes, Obesity, or even a lack of sleep and exercise.

These and other conditions give the fungal infections the OPPORTUNITY to invade the body, and a few dozen of the thousands of species of fungi proceed to do just that. Opportunistic fungi often have special features, depending upon the species. Most prefer the respiratory tract, and if they get in to the bloodstream can go to their favored spots.

Aspergillus, and coccidiomycosis , for instance, prefer the lung. Mucormycosis often involves the sinuses and eyes. Blastomycosis can involve bone. Sporothrix is often found infecting the skin.

Symptoms depend upon the area involved. Of course if it’s a respiratory tract, you have coughing, mucus production, sometimes shortness of breath. With the central nervous system you have headache and confusion. You can see the involvement in the skin.

The number of drugs available to fight fungal infection is fairly limited, and currently involves only three different classes. Many fungi are resistant to one or two of these classes, and can be problematic.
However, fungi do not as a rule spread through the air from person to person, and a true epidemic would be unlikely.

—Dr. C.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #1 – THE “CHRONIC COUGH”

In my 88 years, I have had at least a dozen medical problems. Some have gone away on their own, some have been removed surgically, and a few have become CHRONIC, lasting for years, ultimately becoming a part of my life.

I have compiled a list of these and other SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS I have seen as a physician. Over the next year, I will discuss them one by one, appending these vetted articles for further reading.

The ‘CHRONIC COUGH’ will be the first discussed.

As an Allergist, I was involved with coughing all of my adult life. If my patients did NOT have asthma, they usually coughed from mucus pouring down the back of their throat (post-nasal drip), from their allergic nasal condition (allergic rhinitis), or sometimes from the associated SINUSITIS drainage.

Asthma was a much more common cause of Chronic Cough for my Patients, sometimes theIr main problem. All asthmatic have a chronic inflammation of their breathing tubes(bronchi), and the resulting BRONCHITIS irritates the airway nerve endings, causing Cough.

Without enough narrowing of the airways to cause wheezing, this is called “cough equivalent asthma”. With the addition of airway narrowing (constriction) to the above situation, ASTHMA results.

There is added shortness of breath (dyspnea), and the cough becomes the “tight” wheezy cough of full-blown Asthma.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) may be a residue of long-term asthma, but commonly results from cigarette  smoking. Where loss of alveolae (air sacs) predominates, dyspnea (shortness of breath) is more common.

Where bronchial tube inflammation is more prominent, mucus and cough result. This cough is useful in clearing the mucus; a USEFUL COUGH (although my Patients did not always appreciate their friend, which could be bad enough to cause hernias or incontinence). 

Gastro-esophageal reflux is a chronic condition where stomach contents are not retained in the stomach by the G-E Sphincter ( a type of “purse-string” Gate), but spill(reflux) up, when not restrained by gravity, at NIGHT. The ACIDIC STOMACH CONTENTS burn the esophagus on the way up(heart burn), and are often aspirated into the airways during sleep, causing inflammation and COUGH.

There are many other less common CHRONIC LUNG ( pulmonary) DISEASES (conditions) such as sarcoidosis, bronchiectasis, interstitial pneumonitis, TB, and cancer, that can be diagnosed by imaging (X-Ray, etc.). Heart failure can also cause cough, as can blood pressure medication (ACE inhibitors). 

Smoking is an obvious cause; chronic smoking, chronic cough. Smokers know what is causing their cough, and usually don’t bother coming to the Doctor unless they cough up some blood, or develop one of the myriads of diseases caused by their habit.

If you have a chronic cough, check with your Primary Care Doctor, who may refer you to an Allergist or Pulmonologist. The following article will be useful to your understanding of cough, and will provide a LIST OF QUESTIONS the DOCTOR will likely ask you.

—Dr. C.

Further reading #1

Further reading #2