COPD Causes and Symptoms
Hide Video Transcript
NarratorThese men and women are fighting a common enemy: COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Their lungs don't work normally…every breath taken can be a struggle. What do they believe to be the cause?
Bill Durham COPD PatientToo many cigarettes. Smoked too long, about 40 years.
Loretta Freeman COPD PatientI started smoking when I was 17.
Joseph Burlas COPD PatientMy wife says it's from 40 years of smoking.
NarratorThat's true for about 85-percent of COPD cases.
Gerald Staton, MDWe do see occasional patients that have various industrial exposures that can seem to contribute to that, but often they smoke cigarettes too and so it's probably a combination of factors.
NarratorConsider what happened to 59-year-old Gregory Wright. As a firefighter he was exposed to burning plastics, asbestos and chemicals. Then he worked at an airport breathing in noxious fumes and gases.
Gregory Wright, COPD PatientThe doctor going over my medical history – did you ever smoke? Yes. I smoked for over 30 years.
NarratorAnother troublesome combination:
Gerald Staton, MDAsthma seems to be a predisposition that if you are an asthmatic as a child and then smoke cigarettes then you have a fairly significantly higher risk of developing COPD later in life.
NarratorThen there's a particularly lethal mix: a genetic, or hereditary predisposition due to alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency.
Diane Kay, COPD PatientI was diagnosed with alpha 1 in '99 but I had symptoms for years and being a flight attendant I had a difficult time keeping up with the rest of the crews.
NarratorAlthough rare, people like Diane Kay have low levels of a so-called lung protector protein that's produced by the liver.
Diane Kay, COPD PatientIt took me forever to walk up the driveway from getting the mail. I had to take breaks, and you just think you getting older and at that the time I was a smoker. so you think you know you're older and you smoking and you know. What do you expect?
NarratorShe was susceptible to colds, bronchitis and laryngitis and it took her forever to get over these illnesses. The early COPD symptoms are often missed:
Gerald Staton, MDEven people in their 30's and 40's will have the so-called smoker's cough. They think that's normal. They think everybody gets up in the morning and coughs up stuff, that's not normal. That's the beginning of symptoms.
NarratorShortness of breath tends to develop in their late 40's and 50's. Diane finally had to give up her job:
Diane Kay, COPD PatientThey kind of frown on flight attendants walking on an airplane with an oxygen mask (laughs).
NarratorEventually it became so difficult for Diane to breathe that she ended up needing a lung transplant. Her advice: don't smoke.
Diane Kay, COPD PatientIt basically caused me to have a transplant. If I hadn't been a smoker or worked in an environment where there is second hand smoke I probably wouldn't have had a transplant I never would have gotten as sick as I got, as quickly as I did.
NarratorFor WebMD, I'm Rhonda Rowland.
Differences Between RSV, Cold, Flu, and COVID
Risks of RSV in Older Adults With Chronic Conditions
How to Protect Yourself and Others Against RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus
How NTM MAC, a Lung Disease, Affects the Body
Video: Quick Facts About Bronchitis You Need to Know
Quick Facts About MERS and How It Spreads
An Inside Look at How Pneumonia Affects Your Lungs
What Different Respiratory Problems Sound Like
10-Year-Old Writes Inspiring Book on Rare Lung Condition
Video on Fast Facts About Your Lungs
What Is Pulmonary Hypertension?
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome