According to the CDC, around 16 million people in the U.S. have COPD. In many cases, those affected chalk up the shortness of breath, frequent respiratory infections, and other symptoms to the aging process. Often, symptoms don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred.
But can COPD be reversed? To answer this, you need to understand more about the disease and how it is treated.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a persistent inflammatory disease of the lungs that causes the airflow of the to become blocked. Think of a tree. From the bottom, a single trunk breaks off into several larger branches, then smaller ones. The tubes and air sacs in our lungs are built similar, starting with a single tube to each lung, then branching off into smaller tubes until each lung is covered in a network of them. These tubes expand and contract with each breath bringing air into the lungs and out of your body.
COPD obstructs your airway in two ways; emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
In emphysema, the elasticity of these tubes is lost and over-expand, causing air to become trapped in your lungs when you exhale. This reduces the surface area available for the air exchanges. Chronic bronchitis causes the air tubes to become inflamed and narrowed. You also produce more mucus, which can cause further narrowing and blockage.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, chronic cough with mucus, lack of energy, and frequent respiratory infections. Long term exposure to harmful lung irritants like smoking is the leading cause, although other factors cause a small percentage.
Can it be Reversed?
The short answer is no. COPD is a chronic disease that will progressively worsen over time. However, it is possible to slow the progression and reduce symptoms to minimize its impact. COPD is a treatable condition and with proper management, most of those affected can achieve successful control of their symptoms and lead a good quality of life.
Current Treatments and Clinical Research
Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, keeping physically active, and eating well, are things you can do to improve symptom management along with your doctor’s recommended regimen. Medications available come in the form of inhaled therapies, oral medications, or surgery. These aim to reduce inflammation to open airways, provide supplemental oxygen, and improve quality of life.
There is no cure for COPD, and it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
If you are diagnosed with COPD, clinical research studies may be an option for you. Research studies are currently evaluating the safety and effectiveness of trial medications for COPD, and therapies that are FDA approved for other medical conditions, but may improve symptoms of COPD.
To learn more about our currently enrolling COPD studies, call (407) 658-0966, or visit our website here.