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Martha Jefferson Healthwise: COPD

August 17, 2011

For this week's Martha Jefferson Healthwise report, CBS19's Stephanie Satchell highlights a common lung condition that can cause serious problems if left untreated.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a permanent irreversible damage to the bronchial tubes and/or lung tissue. People often get COPD from smoking but it can also be genetic. The only way to know if you have the disease is by getting a medical exam.

"In order to get an idea of how serious the condition is we usually try to do some pulmonary function test or breathing test that helps establish what to expect from the lung," said Dr. Alexander Schult of Martha Jefferson Medical Associates.

A doctor will listen to your lungs and check for symptoms during the appointment.

"The most common symptoms relate to being short of breath or having a cough with productive phlegm for several months a year. Sometimes patients have chest tightness pressure or wheezing and most importantly it has to do with a past history of smoking," said Schult.

Once COPD is diagnosed, patients should begin to start thinking about treatments. Some patients may require extra oxygen to help their body get enough air.

Martha Jefferson Hospital also offers a pulmonary rehab class which teaches patients how to strengthen the lungs with exercise and breathing techniques.

"We help to condition patients' lungs, we tell them about tricks of the trade about how to improve things that are difficult such as lifting up things from the floor, walking up stairs or carrying grocery bags," said Schult.

While there is no way for the lung to heal itself, identifying COPD and treating it can help patients to physically feel better and live longer. Some patients may qualify for a lung transplant, however that process is considered a last resort.


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