November 12, 2010


COLUMBIA, Tenn. – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, according to The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. More that 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD and many may suffer from the disease without yet being diagnosed. During COPD Awareness Month, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) educates the community on risk factors for the disease and how to manage symptoms.

“COPD is a progressive disease—which means it gets worse over time—and can cause wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing that produces mucus, and other symptoms,” said Dr. Jon Freels, a specialist in pulmonology on the medical staff at MRMC.

COPD is an umbrella term that includes lung diseases such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is a condition in which the walls between the air sacs in one’s lungs are damaged, causing them to lose their elasticity and become floppy. When this happens, the amount of air passing through the lungs is reduced. In chronic bronchitis, the air sacs in the lungs become inflamed which causes mucus to form. The mucus lining the lungs makes it hard to breathe.

“The disease is usually diagnosed in middle-aged or older people who have been exposed to lung irritants. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Breathing in secondhand smoke, air pollution or heavy dust from the environment or workplace can also contribute to the disease,” said Dr. Freels.

Following a diagnosis of COPD, Dr. Freels recommends taking the following actions, some of which can also help decrease one’s risk of disease:

  • If you smoke, quit. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. MRMC offers a quarterly four-week smoking cessation program, which will resume in January. Quitting smoking is the most important step one can take to decrease the risk or lessen the progress of the disease.
  • Avoid being exposed to other lung irritants. Living in an area with good air quality that is free from dust will decrease the irritation to your lungs.
  • Receive treatment. If you have COPD, follow the treatments prescribed by your doctor. The Respiratory Care Department at MRMC offers services to inpatients and outpatients such as oxygen administration, aerosol and humidity therapy, pulmonary hyperinflation therapy, pulmonary function testing and rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary stress testing and mechanical ventilation.

“COPD develops slowly and can be a major cause of disability. Symptoms can worsen over time, limiting your ability to perform basic activities. While there is no known cure for the disease, treatments and lifestyle changes can help slow its progress and keep you feeling better and staying more active,” said Dr. Freels.

The Respiratory Care Department routinely conducts breathing tests to assess the functional level of your lungs, which assists your physician in determining your condition and prescribing medication and therapy. For more information on the services provided by the Respiratory Care Department at MRMC, call 931.380.4094