Health Watch -- Lung Disease

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

There's one major cause of death that's becoming even more common.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - or COPD - is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. It affects more than 21 million Americans. This condition involves obstructed airflow in the lungs. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are diseases classified as COPD.

Dr. Yolanda Mageto, a lung specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says that COPD is often underestimated because it's not diagnosed until it's already in advanced stages. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath and other breathing problems.

The best way to avoid COPD and to keep it from getting worse is to stop smoking or not start smoking. It's also best to avoid being exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke. Other preventative measures include avoiding exposure to industrial dusts and chemicals, as well as indoor and outdoor air pollutants.

If you have breathing problems like you might experience with a cold or the flu that don't go away after several days, you should see your doctor. This is especially important if you're a smoker because you're at greater risk.


May 2004