What COPD can do-A A +A
Monday, July 16, 2012
LAST week the untimely demise of comedy king Dolphy or Rodolfo Vera Quizon Sr. in real life made headlines as he succumbed to COPD at the age of 83 years, according to his physicians.
According to medical literatures, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a group of respiratory disorders characterized by chronic and recurrent obstruction of airflow in the air passage ways of the lungs.
Experts believe that the airflow obstruction is progressive and is typically accompanied by the body’s inflammatory responses to noxious particles or gases in the environment.
Demographers estimate that as of 2005 in the US alone, there are about 14 million Americans that have COPD.
They maintain that COPD in the US represents the fourth leading cause of death with a mortality of 117,000 reported in 2000.
In the Philippines, the Department of Health mentioned in its official website that COPD is the 7th among the top 10 causes of mortality in the country.
Public health experts claim that risk factors for COPD encompass both individual and environmental factors.
At the individual level, experts support that a genetic deficiency, particularly in alpha-1 antitrypsin, an important enzyme that protects the lungs from injury, predisposes a person to COPD.
Other factors at the individual level that public health authorities include are asthma and other airway disorders acquired during infancy and early childhood that impair lung growth.
At the environmental level, experts emphasize that smoking is the most common cause of COPD thus making it a preventable disease.
Unfortunately, they added that clinical findings of COPD are almost always absent during its early stages and by the time they do appear, the affected individual is already said to be in the advanced stages of the disease.
COPD, experts maintain, can be detected by a careful history taking, a meticulous physical exam and some diagnostics by medical and paramedical practitioners.
They also claim that the available treatment may also vary that may range from medications to the use of some sophisticated equipment that helps the person to breath normally.
According to medical sociologists, smoking cessation will only delay progress and they emphasize the importance of prevention over cure.
Pathologists enumerate the two forms of COPD -- emphysema that involves enlargement of the air spaces with destruction of lung tissues and bronchitis, which destroys small airways. For them, the most common manifestation of COPD is dyspnea or shortness of breath.
According to Dr. Carol Porth, a nurse specializing in pathophysiology in the US, clinical manifestations of COPD may range from cough to phlegm production to severe respiratory impairment.
Other experts claim that any of the following can occur to patients with COPD -- rapid breathing rate, wheezing sounds heard in the lungs upon auscultation with a stethoscope, increased size of the chest particularly from the front to back distance, breathing through pursed-lips and use of neck muscles to assist in breathing.
Pulmonologist emphasize that the dyspnea that COPD patients initially experience are mild and are only apparent upon physical exertion or engagement in rigorous physical activities in the early stages of the disease.
Over the years, the dyspnea will appear even in the slightest activities that the person with COPD will engage in and this will then mean that the latter has already gone to advance stages.
For health professionals, a person with COPD can develop respiratory failure and such patients will experience cyanosis or the bluish discoloration of the lips and other mucous membrane due to the lack of oxygen in blood. In turn, this will also trap carbon dioxide in the body that can cause headaches and even twitching.
Other complications of COPD, they said, are respiratory infections that include pneumonia or influenza, high blood pressure causing a condition known as pulmonary hypertension thus causing heart problems that lead to ankle and knee swelling and other heart-related problems.
In worst cases, such as those that have gone too advanced, a person with COPD may die.
In a way, after learning more about COPD, one cannot deny expressing concern over those groups that are most susceptible to the environmental factors that constitute COPD.
One group for example is the jeepney drivers who are most exposed to environmental pollution, particularly from the smoke emitted by vehicles.
Another group is the commuters of public utility vehicles who may inhale the carbon monoxide in the streets, bridges and alleys, especially when the traffic is like a jam.
The condition of Dolphy at the time he was admitted somehow functioned as a reminder of the possibilities that COPD holds to anybody who has it, regardless of socioeconomic standing, religion or political affiliation.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 17, 2012.