Starke County has a relatively high smoking rate, meaning it also has an increased rate of residents diagnosed with COPD.
The disease, which stands for Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease, is typically associated with shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and weakness. COPD is made up of chronic emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Brittany Ward is a respiratory therapist at Starke Hospital. She says that while it’s not always the cause, smoking is a major culprit.
“Well if there’s a smoker in the house, everyone is at risk to develop lung problems, especially children that have asthma and/or allergies,” says Ward.
COPD results from damaged alveoli in the lungs, typically from smoking or second hand tobacco use.
According to Ward, the disease is not reversible, but can be treated with improved eating and environmental habits, in addition to prescription drug treatments such as steroids, dilators, and inhalers.
While COPD is not likely to improve, there are steps that can be taken to slow the progression of the disease.
“People can live with the symptoms and improve their quality of life if they’re compliant with their medications and their doctors advice and things like that,” says Ward.
COPD may be diagnosed through testing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease’s prevalence was tracked between 2% and 13% of the population depending on the region in 2011.