What is COPD?
COPD is a short hand abbreviation for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
COPD is usually categorized as either Chronic Bronchitis or as
Emphysema. Both are usually manifested by coughing, wheezing, chest
tightness and shortness of breath.
Is COPD is the same thing as asthma?
two share many similarities but they are not the same thing. For one,
asthma is mostly a reversible condition and it is considered to more of
an inflammatory condition rather than one that is accompanied by lung
How do I know which type of COPD I have?
of these diseases have criteria that are used to define them. Chronic
Bronchitis often is more difficult to categorize because its criteria
are somewhat subjective. It is typically described as having cough with
sputum production for three months out of the year and for at least two
years. More modern approaches do not use this definition and many cases
that have been labeled as “Chronic Bronchitis” may actually represent
Asthma. Emphysema has more straightforward presentation. It is
manifested as obstruction of the airways with destruction of lung
What should I do about my COPD?
to your doctor about making sure that you get lung function testing to
see exactly how severe your COPD is and ask your doctor which type of
COPD you have. Also, ask you doctor about international guidelines for
treatment of COPD. These are called “GOLD” guidelines. These treatments
will include lifestyle modifications, medications, pulmonary rehab
programs and sometimes surgical interventions. Of course, you should
refrain from smoking.
What causes COPD?
are many causes of COPD. However, most cases, particularly emphysema
are linked to tobacco smoking. There is also a genetic condition called
Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (A1AT Deficiency for short) that can
Is this genetic problem common?
Deficiency is actually relatively rare. But it is extremely treatable.
For this reason, it is important to be screened for it if you are having
any lung problems. All patients with COPD should be screened and since
many patients with A1AT Deficiency initially present with a condition
that appears to be similar to asthma, many asthma patients will benefit
from genetic screening.
Why does A1AT cause COPD?
Deficiency means that a person does not have enough Alpha 1
Antitrypsin. This enzyme helps to keep balance with Trypsin and without
it; Trypsin goes unchecked and destroys tissues in the body, especially
How do I find out if I have A1AT?
cases of A1AT Deficiency can be defined by blood work. This consists of
an initial screening test. If the screening test shows an abnormality,
more detailed genetic testing can be done to determine if you have the
disease or are a carrier.
If I find out that I am a carrier, then what should I do?
you are a carrier, you should have some testing done to make sure you
haven’t had any lung damage). It is important for carriers to refrain
from smoking and to have their family members tested.
Can A1AT Deficiency be treated?
A1AT Deficiency can definitely treated. The A1AT can be replenished
with intravenous infusions. Patients with this condition should also be
treated for their COPD very aggressively according to “GOLD” Guidelines.
For very severe cases, some patients undergo lung transplant.