Health News Articles

Breathe Easy: Managing Pulmonary Disease

Feb 6, 2014
COPD Couple.pngWith a combination of medication, pulmonary rehabilitation and lifestyle changes, more and more people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are leading full, active lives.

“If you have mild to moderate COPD, you can do very well for a very long time with the right treatment approach,” says Kenneth Goldblatt MD, (pictured below) Section Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP), board certified in internal medicine and pulmonary diseases. “In some cases, we’re even able to help patients resume many daily activities they previously found very difficult because of COPD.” 

The term COPD refers to a group of diseases that blocks airflow to the lungs and cause breathing problems, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. An estimated 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Symptoms include shortness of breath and a chronic cough, often accompanied by mucus. A diagnosis is confirmed by pulmonary function tests. While smoking causes most COPD, the disease can also be related to occupational and environmental pollutants, hereditary conditions and long-term asthma. 

Five Ways to Control COPD
In general, COPD care involves drug therapy to open up airways to the lungs, as well as rehabilitation and lifestyle changes to help the body process oxygen more efficiently. Dr. Goldblatt says treatment may include: 

Smoking cessation. Smoking destroys and inflames lung tissue. Quitting can greatly slow the progression of the disease. 

Medication. Many effective medications are available, from long-lasting beta-agonists, which relax the muscles of the airways to allow more air to enter the lungs, to emergency inhalers for acute breathing trouble. 

Oxygen Therapy. Oxygen can help patients with COPD feel better and be more active. Portable oxygen concentrators allow patients to move freely while receiving continuous therapy. 

Weight loss. Losing weight can take pressure off of the diaphragm, making it easier to breathe. It also reduces the body’s oxygen needs. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation. UMCPP’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, which may last up to 12 weeks, involves medically supervised, progressive exercise as well as education on topics ranging from inhaler use to breathing techniques. 

“It’s amazing how much better rehabilitation can make people feel,” says Dr. Goldblatt, who serves as the program’s medical director. “Without rehabilitation, COPD patients can fall into a downward spiral—the disease makes them less active, and that lack of activity leaves them less fit to be active.” 

Inpatient Care at UMCPP
Even patients successfully managing COPD may experience an occasional exacerbation that requires hospitalization for breathing treatments or to treat lung infections or conditions such as pneumonia. 

For those patients, UMCPP offers comprehensive inpatient care supervised by board certified pulmonologists and nurses with extensive experience working with COPD patients. Upon discharge, patients can also be referred for in-home nursing and rehabilitation through Princeton HomeCare, a unit of Princeton HealthCare System.

To find a board certified pulmonologist affiliated with Princeton HealthCare System, call 1.888.PHCS4YOU (1.888.742.7496) or visit www.princetonhcs.org.