Recent Advances in COPD Research and Products
Why did you smoke? Did you look cool? Were you unaware of the dangers? Was it learned behavior from mom and dad, grandma and grandpa? Peer pressure?
In 2019, there’s not excuse for smoking. For those of us who grew up in the era where it was all the rage, smoking is deeply affecting our later years, even if we quit days, months, or years ago.
WHAT IS COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an incurable ailment that’s the third-leading cause of death in the United States. As recently as 2015, COPD was the cause of death for 3 million people worldwide, accounting for 5 percent of all deaths in the world. COPD deaths will increase as smokers from the 1960s and 1970s get older. A 2016 study claims that in the next 15 years, COPD-related medical emergencies will increase 185 percent! While quitting smoking is the best way to avoid COPD, it can also simply be a matter of aging.
Treating COPD is difficult; it is a major and underreported problem. An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. are affected by COPD, but the disease gets less funding and attention than others. However, scientists are forever searching for new ways to diagnose and treat COPD, and while earlier detection, drug therapies, and surgery are important, there are some new treatments that have the medical community excited.
COPD’s most commonly prescribed drug therapies are bronchodilators (you know them as inhalers) which open up airways, and inhaled corticosteroids (also through COPD inhalers) that help reduce inflammation in the lungs. Both treatments can alleviate symptoms, but they don’t address the damage inflicted upon the lungs, damage that can be lessened but not cured.
MANAGING COPD OR ITS SIDE EFFECTS?
But COPD inhalers come with common side effects. It’s important to weigh which is more pressing: your desire to manage your COPD or the side effects, which include:
- Voice changes
- Yeast infections
- Throat pain
- Extreme fatigue and low blood pressure
- Osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Skin thinning and purpura (purple spots on the skin)
Recent COPD studies have found that oxidative stress (damage to cells) and inflammation are the biggest aggressors of COPD. A recent study of new COPD treatments suggests broccoli extract may have a positive effect on COPD.
In addition to new drugs that treat COPD itself, some doctors recommend you get a pneumonia vaccine and an annual flu shot, plus antibiotics or other medications.
IS SURGERY NEEDED?
In serious cases, surgery for COPD is an option for some patients, including a bullectomy, where small, air-filled sacs called bullae are removed from the lungs. Also, lung volume reduction surgery can take place where damaged parts of the lung are removed. In extreme cases, lung transplants may be performed.
A new COPD treatment is called “broncoscopic lung volume reduction” where special flexible scopes are inserted in a patient’s mouth to place metal coils in damaged lung tissue. The coils return elasticity to tissue, allowing the lungs’ attempt to return to normal. However, these procedures are not FDA-approved, though they are being performed in Europe.
The ideal treatment for COPD has not yet arrived, but researchers continue looking for ways to treat damaged lungs. Step one, though: Quit smoking. Step two: See step one.