COPD prevalent in eastern Kentucky

Kathy Atkins

Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) recognizes November as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) month, to raise awareness about this disease that is prevalent in eastern Kentucky.


"We see a lot of COPD here in the clinic," said Yousof Elgaried, M.D., PMC pulmonologist. "The COPD is related to smoking and coal mining. Even though there aren't as many coal miners today as there were, the disease develops over the years: 10, 20 maybe even 40 years."


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define COPD as a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing –related problems. It includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and in some cases asthma.


Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It's characterized by daily cough and mucus (sputum) production at least three months a year for two consecutive years.


Emphysema is a condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are destroyed as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke or other air pollutants. The main symptom of emphysema is shortness of breath, which usually begins gradually.


COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred. Most people are at least 40 years old when symptoms begin and they usually worsen over time, particularly if smoking continues.


Other signs and symptoms of COPD may include:


•Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities




•Chest tightness


•Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs


•A chronic cough that may produce mucus (sputum) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish


•Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)


•Frequent respiratory infections


•Lack of energy


•Unintended weight loss (in later stages)


•Swelling in ankles, feet or legs.


COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States.


People with COPD are at increased risk of developing complications, including:


•Respiratory infections. People with COPD are more likely to catch colds, the flu and pneumonia. Any respiratory infection can make it much more difficult to breathe and could cause further damage to lung tissue.


•Heart problems. For reasons that aren't fully understood, COPD can increase the risk of heart disease, including heart attack. Quitting smoking may reduce this risk.


•Lung cancer. People with COPD have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. Quitting smoking may reduce this risk.


Unlike some diseases, COPD has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention.


The majority of cases are directly related to cigarette smoking, and the best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke — or to stop smoking now.


The main cause of COPD is tobacco smoking. Other irritants can cause COPD, including cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to dust, smoke or fumes.


"It's never too late to quit smoking," said Dr. Abdallah Kharnaf, M.D., PMC pulmonologist. "It takes a while for the body to reverse the effects of smoking, but I can see both short and long term benefits in patients who quit."


About 20 to 30 percent of chronic smokers will develop COPD, although many smokers with long smoking histories may develop reduced lung function. Some smokers develop less common lung conditions.


COPD is treatable. With proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life, as well as reduced risk of other associated conditions.


For more information about COPD or to make an appointment with Dr. Elgaried or Dr. Kharnaf, call 606-218-2208.


The Pulmonary Clinic is located on the eighth floor of the Pam May Clinic Building.




Source: Mayo Clinic, Centers for Disease Control