Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a slowly progressive
obstruction of airflow into or out of the lungs. The incidence of COPD has
almost doubled since 1982. The disease occurs slightly more often in men than in
women. The symptoms come on slowly and many people are consequently diagnosed
after age 40-50, although some are diagnosed at a younger age.
What are the risk factors for COPD?
smoke tobacco are at the highest risk for developing COPD. Other
risk factors include exposure to
secondhand smoke from tobacco, and exposure to
high levels of air pollution, especially air pollution associated with wood or
coal. In addition, individuals with airway hyper-responsiveness such as those
chronic asthma are at increased risk.
Finally, there is a genetic factor called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that
places a small percentage (less than 1%) of people at higher risk for COPD
because a protective factor (alpha-1 antitrypsin protein) for lung tissue
elasticity is decreased or absent.
What other diseases or conditions contribute to COPD?
In general, three other non-genetic problems related to the lung tissue play
a role in COPD. Two of the conditions,
chronic bronchitis and emphysema, are
thought by many to be variations of COPD and considered part of the progression
Chronic bronchitis is defined as a
chronic cough that produces sputum for
three or more months during two consecutive years. Emphysema is an abnormal and
permanent enlargement of the air spaces (alveoli) located at the end of the
terminal bronchioles in the lungs.
Infectious diseases of the lung may damage areas of the lung tissue and
contribute to COPD.
Viewer question: My husband has been diagnosed with Stage IV COPD, what does Stage IV indicate?
Doctor's response: Stage IV COPD represents very severe COPD. People in this group often have evidence of respiratory failure (either low blood oxygen or high carbon dioxide levels) or clinical signs of right heart failure (such as leg swelling), that characteristically accompany respiratory failure. At this stage, quality of life is appreciably impaired. Exacerbations of the condition may occur three to four times per year and may be life-threatening.