Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Understanding and Managing COPD

This November, UF Health recognizes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, to spread awareness about the importance of understanding this disease. COPD is a term used to describe a group of lung diseases that make breathing difficult.Woman using a spirometer for inhalation exercise.

COPD symptoms include a chronic cough, fatigue, shortness of breath that gets worse with mild activity, trouble catching one’s breath and wheezing. Since these symptoms can develop slowly, many people are unaware they have COPD.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause, but long-term exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes or certain dusts can all contribute to COPD. Natalia Moguillansky, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine in the University of Florida College of Medicine’s division of pulmonary and critical care medicine, strongly advises patients diagnosed with COPD to immediately quit smoking.

“Once we determine that they have COPD, the main thing for them would be to counsel them on smoking cessation,” said Dr. Moguillansky. “There is always something causing the COPD.”

If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from COPD, there are a few ways UF Health can diagnose the condition. The best test for COPD is a lung-function test called spirometry. Imaging tests of the lungs, such as X-rays and CT scans, also may be ordered.
There is no cure for COPD but with diagnosis and treatment, patients can feel better, stay active and slow its progression.

Patients can be treated with medications or without. Treatments include the use of inhalers and other drugs, oxygen supplementation, pulmonary rehabilitation and, more recently, an endoscopic treatment called a bronchoscopy.

UF Health offers physical therapy programs, walking saturation tests to evaluate if a patient needs oxygen supplements, vaccinations and evaluations to determine if a patient might be a lung transplant candidate.

Since COPD patients have a lower lung volume reserve, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended because the disease primarily targets the lungs, causing inflammation and breathing problems.

If you are looking for assistance to quit smoking, Tobacco Free Florida offers free nicotine-replacement therapy starter kits. In addition, UF Health also provides resources and support groups for patients suffering from COPD.

About the Author

Julie Diehl