Testing for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) -- We're covering East Tennessee health tonight, with details on a deadly, yet under diagnosed disease.

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

It includes diseases like chronic bronchitis and emphysema and many people don't even know they have it.

But a five minute screening offered free to the public at the UT Medical Center on Thursday could determine whether you have it.

Erwin and Pat Lewis know they are at risk for COPD.

Erwin was a cigarette smoker for 30 years.

"I'd say a moderate smoker,” he said, “I probably smoked between a half a pack and a pack a day."

Pat was inhaling that same smoke, second hand, for the same 30 years.

"Yes, very healthy and have never smoked but I do have a cough," she said.

It was that cough that brought the Lewis' to the UT Medical Center to receive a free lung function screening, called a Spirometry.

It could once and for all determine whether that cough that Pat has had for years is a sign of something more serious.

"COPD is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and the key word there is obstructive, so for a variety of reasons, people with COPD develop problems getting air out of their lungs,” said Dr. James Shamiyeh, a Pulmonologist at UT Medical.

Dr. Shamiyeh says while there is no cure for COPD and the damage caused to the lungs can't be reversed, there are several treatment options available to slow the damage and help those suffering from it.

It's time for Erwin to learn whether that pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years has done permanent and irreversible damage to his lungs.

His results are reassuring and the Spirometry seems to indicate that he does not have COPD.

But what about the second-hand smoke pat inhaled all those years?

Is it the cause of her unshakable cough?

"I understand you have some cough and were motivated to come out,” Dr. Shamiyeh said, “of course, you're at much lower risk to have COPD, but your Spirometry is normal as well.

The news was good for the Lewis’, but COPD kills more than 120,000 Americans every year.
Smoking is the primary risk factor but other environmental and hereditary factors can also put someone at risk.

A lung function test can detect COPD long before you have any symptoms.

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