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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Emphysema

10/14/2010

Question:

I was diagnosed with emphysema in 1998, I quit smoking after the diagnoses. Why are the survival rates predicted to be so low? I have my moments mostly on long staircases where I do stop every eight stairs or so, I never overdo any kind of activity that will make me short of breath. I sleep well, eat well and walk whenever possible.

Answer:

Thank you for visiting NetWellness and for your question. There are several possible explanations for poor survival in severe COPD.

First, in some people the inflammation that is a component of COPD can continue even after smoking cessation. So, for some people the disease continues to progress even after they quit smoking.

Second, there are many coexisting disease states that can occur with COPD including heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, and lung cancer that also impact survival. These conditions are also related to smoking. When people continue to smoke, the risk for all of these complications increases.

There are also many infectious complications that can occur in people with lung disease that limit their survival.

Finally, there have not been any treatments developed that dramatically improve survival in people with COPD. Smoking cessation, oxygen, and lung reduction surgery for a subset of people improve survival rates, but that's it. The therapies we have now improve symptoms only.

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Response by:

Michael E Ezzie, MD Michael E Ezzie, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University