COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmnary Disease) is a serious lung disease that makes it hard to breath. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most common COPD conditions. Emphysema happens when the air sacs (called alveoli) at the end of the smallest air passages (called bronchioles) in the lungs are gradually destroyed. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs.
COPD Care at UVM Medical Center
There is no cure for COPD, but it is treatable. COPD is best managed by a group of specialists that include doctors with expertise in lung diseases (pulmonologists), nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, physical therapists and occupational therapists. At The UVM Medical Center, we want you to breathe more easily.
- Comprehensive rehabilitation - Our pulmonary rehabilitation program allows you to be an active participant in your care. The program combines different treatments to help you become more active, reduce your symptoms, and improve your quality of life.
- Board-certified pulmonologists - We offer 15 physicians board certified in pulmonary medicine who regularly treat COPD, and a clinic with specific expertise in COPD evaluation and treatment. You’ll know you’re receiving top quality care from doctors who are experts in their field.
- Accurate diagnostic testing - Our pulmonary technologists and imaging specialists offer the the most advanced CT technology available today. Within seconds, we can see 3D images of internal organs.
- Quit smoking program - One of the most important treatments of COPD can also be on of the most challenging for the patient. Our smoking cessation program helps you take control of your health by stopping smoking.
Risk Factors for COPD
The main cause of COPD is long-term cigarette smoking, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including:
- Smoke exposure - Cigarette, secondhand, pipe, cigar and marijuana smoking all can increase your risk. UVM Medical Center offers a quit smoking program.
- Smoking with asthma - The risk is even higher if you smoke when you already have this chronic airway disease.
- Dust and chemical occupational exposure - Long-term, workplace exposure to chemical fumes, vapors and dusts can irritate and inflame your lungs.
- Age - Most people with COPD are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin.
- Inherited disorder - It is rare, but some people with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, an uncommon genetic condition, can develop COPD.
If you have a cough with or without a lot of mucus that doesn't seem to go away, you may have COPD. Talk to your doctor if you have this symptom or others such as shortness of breath with physical activity.
Our pulmonary technologists and imaging specialists are specially trained in the latest technology to diagnose lung problems. The process of diagnosis may involve the following:
- Physical Exam - Your doctor will ask you some questions about your health history, listen to your lungs and may recommend one or more diagnostic tests.
- Spirometry - This is the main test for COPD. It measures how much air your lungs can hold and how fast the air is blown out.
- Chest X-ray - A chest X-ray can show emphysema, one of the most common COPD conditions. An X-ray can also rule out other lung problems or heart failure.
- Computed Tomography (CT or CAT) scan - At The UVM Medical Center we offer the most advanced CT technology available today, providing comprehensive images of organs within seconds with a high degree of accuracy. A CT scan can help see if you have emphysema or may benefit from COPD surgery.
- Arterial blood gas analysis - This blood test measures how well your lungs are getting oxygen into your blood and removing carbon dioxide.
Lung damage from COPD cannot be cured, but the treatment options provided by the University of Vermont Medical Center can help you breathe and feel better, control symptoms and lessen further damage.
Treatment options include:
- Quit Smoking - The most important step in any COPD treatment plan is to quit smoking. Continuing to smoke further damages your lungs, advances the COPD and can make it harder to breathe. We understand it is hard to quit. That's why we offer a quit smoking program. It is never too late to begin a smoke-free life.
- Medications - Medicines can help you breathe easier. Most are inhaled, so they go straight to your lungs. If you get an inhaler, it is very important to use it just the way your doctor shows you.
- Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program - This program can improve your quality of life and teach you how best to manage your COPD. The UVM Medical Center's outpatient comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program is provided regularly at the Medical Center Campus. The goals of the program are to help you achieve and maintain the most independence and function. The initial evaluation by a pulmonary physician is followed by twice-weekly sessions for six weeks. Each session has educational time and a supervised physical activity program. In order to participate, you must be able to walk and be free of heart disease.
- Oxygen Therapy - This is the only treatment proven to help people with COPD live longer. It also can improve your quality of life. Oxygen therapy provides extra oxygen if there isn't enough getting into your blood through breathing. There are options such as using oxygen all the time, only during certain activities or while you're sleeping.
- Lung Transplant - Transplant surgery is a major operation with significant risks, but it may be an option if you meet specific criteria. You will need to take immune-suppressing medications for the rest of your life once you've had this surgery.
- Lung Volume Reduction Surgery - This surgery may improve your quality of life and help you live longer. The surgeon removes some damaged lung tissue to make extra space in your chest so that the remaining lung tissue and the diaphragm work more efficiently.