Understanding Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Featuring: Pulmonologist Howard Waksman, MD
Overheard: “My grandmother has emphysema and COPD – how unlucky is that?!”
Unlucky, perhaps – but not unlikely.
“The real way to think of it is that COPD as a category can be caused by many different things,” pulmonologist Howard Waksman, MD, explains, “and may in fact encompass many different diseases.”
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for lungs with persistent diminished capacity and function caused by other lung-compromising conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, which the American Lung Association calls “the two primary components of COPD.” So, while such diseases may not have progressed to a state of COPD – yet, it’s rare for COPD to exist without them.
“Officially, COPD is essentially broken down into things like emphysema, where the problem occurs because of the destruction of lung tissue,” Dr. Waksman says, “or chronic bronchitis, where the condition is largely limited to the airways. The net effect is the same, though, in terms of abnormal tests and symptoms.”
Simply put, COPD makes it hard to breathe, and if ignored, will only get worse over time. Early symptoms are generally painless but definitely disruptive, and often don’t show up until COPD is more advanced:
- Persistent phlegmy cough, referred to as “smoker’s cough”
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath that worsens with activity
- Trouble catching one’s breath
- Frequent respiratory infections
Cigarette smoking is the main cause of COPD and its component diseases. Every COPD patient is different, but kicking the habit improves the prognosis at ANY stage.
Dr. Waksman and the team at Deborah offer personalized plans for treating, managing, and even slowing COPD’s progression.
Deborah Heart and Lung Center is a 2023-2024 U.S. News & World Report High Performing Hospital in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. This is the highest award a hospital can earn for U.S. News’ Best Hospitals Procedures & Conditions ratings, recognizing “care that was significantly better than the national average.”
KYW’s Rasa Kaye talks with Dr. Waksman about this common lung disease.