COPD, a chronic inflammatory lung disease causing obstructed airflow from the lungs, affects over 3 million people each year in the United States. COPD is typically diagnosed in those 40 years and older, women and people who have a family history of COPD. Those with AIDS or tuberculosis are also at a higher risk of developing COPD. Others at high risk are smokers and those who have experienced prolonged exposure to workplace pollutants such harmful chemicals and fumes. Air pollution can even play a role in the development of COPD. There is no known cure for COPD.
Symptoms of COPD
The diagnosis of COPD in early stages can be difficult. COPD often remains undetected well into later stages as it can develop for many years without any symptoms. Once COPD symptoms are detected, they may appear as shortness of breath during physical exertion, a general shortness of breath that progressively worsens, mucous production, frequent and persistent cough with or without mucus, wheezing, tightening of the chest, fatigue, commonly occurring lung infections, loss of appetite and weight loss.
It is important that people suffering from these types of symptoms see a doctor as soon as possible, particularly if they begin experiencing symptoms of infections such as fever or excessive, thick mucus. With possible complications including increased risk of contracting influenza and colds, acute symptom flare-ups, respiratory infections such as pneumonia, lung cancer and heart conditions as serious as heart disease, COPD can be an extremely dangerous condition.
Immediate medical attention should be sought for more severe symptoms such as trouble breathing so intense that it can cause difficulty speaking, confusion and dizziness/fainting. Those experiencing increased heart rate, blue lips and/or nails and swelling in legs, ankles and/or feet should also seek emergency care.
General practitioners will typically refer patients to a pulmonologist (a doctor who specializes in respiratory system conditions) for diagnosis and treatment and a thoracic surgeon if a biopsy or surgery related to the lungs is needed.
Diagnosis often requires lab testing and imaging. One of the most common tests is spirometry, which measures how much air patients are able to inhale and exhale and whether the lungs deliver enough oxygen to the blood. During this particular test, patients are asked to blow into a large tube which is connected to a machine that will measure oxygen volume. Lab tests, used to test for certain genetic deficiencies, may also be required if patients develop COPD at a young age or have a family history of COPD.
Other lung function tests may include walking tests, which usually last about six minutes; and pulse oximetry, which is a test for precise measurement of oxygen within the blood. Chest x-rays can show signs of emphysema and may be used to rule out other lung problems and heart failure. CT lung scans are also used to detect emphysema, help to determine if surgery would benefit the patient and to rule out lung cancer. Arterial blood gas analysis can measure how effectively the lungs transport oxygen and remove carbon dioxide throughout the blood.
Some people with reduced lung function due to smoking, environmental conditions or genetic factors are misdiagnosed as having COPD before thorough testing is performed. In-depth testing and procedures to determine if a patient actually has COPD; and, if so, to discover the severity of their condition may include chest x-rays, which are used to search for certain abnormalities which could lead to COPD symptoms, complete blood counts (CBCs) to rule out infections which may cause some of the symptoms of COPD and pulmonary function tests (PFTs) to assess lung function and the severity of the condition. Later, after medication has been prescribed and taken long enough to produce the desired result, bronchodilator reverse testing may be used to see if lung function has improved with said medication.
Therapies including oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation are recommended for certain COPD patients. Other COPD treatment options to reduce symptoms include medication, such as antibiotics to eliminate lung infections, glucocorticosteroids to reduce airway inflammation and bronchodilators for muscle and airway relaxation to improve breathing. If medication is found to be ineffective, medical procedures such as lung transplants and bullectomies – which are the removal of enlarged air sacs from the lung – are sometimes performed.
Clinical research and the findings that are uncovered within the clinical trial process are vital to advancement of medicine and, more specifically, crucial for discovering better ways to prevent, treat, control and diagnose illnesses…and clinical trial volunteers are an essential part of that process. In addition, major medical breakthroughs could not happen without the contribution of clinical trial volunteers.
Clinical trial volunteers are an essential part of advancements in medicine, helping us improve lives across the globe. If you think you may want to participate as a volunteer, feel free to enroll with Velocity Clinical Research on our patient portal at riversideclinicalresearch.com so that you may be contacted about studies conducted in your area.
COPD Clinical Trials
Researchers at the Velocity Clinical Research facility are currently planning a clinical study involving COPD. If you have questions or would like more information about volunteering for this particular clinical trial, you are welcome to call the Velocity Clinical Research professionals for more information at 386-428-7730 Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Friday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Velocity Clinical Research
Velocity Clinical Research is an award winning medical research facility consisting of a highly skilled team of doctors and researchers who work one-on-one with Velocity Clinical Research clinical trial volunteers. The professionals at Velocity Clinical Research are dedicated to working diligently today to enhance lives through improved medical outcomes tomorrow. Riverside Clinical Research is conveniently located at 1410 S. Ridgewood Avenue in Edgewater.