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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

A question about the end-stages of emphysema

02/12/2008

Question:

First I want to thank you, this information has been very helpful. My question is regarding my uncle, who has been diagoned with emphysema about 5 years ago. He was a smoker. I notice he is getiing worse, just from speaking to him daily on the phone. He lives in NY by himself and I live in Fl. He has been on oxygen for about three years. I just want to know when I should be concerned about him being by himself, he would neverr mover here to florida. Are there anything that I can look out for to know when its no longer safe for him to be by himself. He goes to the doctor often, but I feel he isnt telling me everything that she has told him to be prepared for. I notice he is hort of breath, and he say`s he is loosing weight. I just want to be prepared for what is next and what to watch for. Is it true that being on oxygen, for a long period of time will make his lugs freeze up. Thank you again for all this great information.

Answer:

Symptoms of COPD usually start with a cough, phlegm production, and shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, patients often complain of fatigue, weakness, and worsening of previously mentioned symptoms. In severe disease, patients may develop very low oxygen levels. Supplemental oxygen can improve life expectancy and even cognitive function in this setting. It does not cause the "lungs to freeze up."

It is very hard to monitor someone’s health and ability to do self care from a distance. Would you be able to convince your uncle to sign a release so you can get information directly from his physician? Speaking directly to the physician would be very beneficial. You could also check into a home health assessment. Patients may qualify for assistance with cleaning, activities of daily living and nursing assessments. He would also most likely benefit from being enrolled in an exercise based outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.

Thank you for your interest in COPD.

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Response by:

Gretchen   Whitby, APRN Gretchen Whitby, APRN
Nurse Practitioner of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Phillip T Diaz, MD Phillip T Diaz, MD
Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University