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COPD

October 15, 2014

 

 

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?

The 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 tissue destruction.

 

How do I know which type of COPD I have?

Both 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 tissue.

 

What should I do about my COPD?

Talk 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?

There 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 cause Emphysema.

 

Is this genetic problem common?

A1AT 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?

A1AT 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 lung tissues.

 

How do I find out if I have A1AT?

Most 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?

If 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?

Yes, 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.

 

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