NAPLES, Fla. — November is COPD Awareness Month. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and a doctor with NCH Healthcare System said it's a term for a group of disease that make it tough for a patient to exhale.
"Chronic" means it's a condition that is persistent and long-lasting. "Obstructive" means the patient has trouble getting air out of their lungs. "Pulmonary" means it's a disease of the lungs.
"We have a lot of obstructive diseases: asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchial stasis, cystic fibrosis," Dr. David Lindner, the Subdivision Head of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine for NCH Healthcare said. "They all ultimately lead to shortness of breath."
Dr. Lindner said COPD can be genetic.
"There can be a genetic component to it, which we screen for. There's an enzyme that some people basically are deficient in, and that can lead to a congenital form of this," Dr. Lindner said.
Most of the time, Dr. Lindner said COPD is caused by what he calls "inhalational injuries."
"Most commonly, unfortunately, tobacco use. But also, we have problems with other things, such as air pollution” he said.
Dr. Lindner said COPD can also be "occupationally-induced" — meaning it can be caused by exposure to chemicals, dusts or gases in the workplace. A study published in the journal ‘Thorax’ said 21 percent of COPD cases can be attributed to exposures at work.
Dr. Lindner also said COPD is the result of repetitive exposure to a pollutant or tobacco use over a long period of time.
"We'll have a person who says, 'Well, I haven't smoked for 20 years,' but yet they had smoked for maybe 20 years. And now, unfortunately, we're seeing the problem develop later on in life," he said.
Dr. Lindner said because Southwest Florida has a large elderly population who smoked tobacco during a time when people weren't as aware of the dangers, he sees a good amount of COPD cases at NCH Healthcare.