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Find inspirational stories, tips from the COPD Coach, events, and current news on the COPD community blog. Have a question regarding COPD that you would like to share with our community? Contact our COPD Coach. Coaches Corner is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at We would love to hear your questions and comments.

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Archive: July 2016

Coughing Spasms: Is it COPD?

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Dear COPD Coach,
I don't want to waste your time, but my father has been experiencing trouble breathing, coughing spasms, and loss of consciousness due to coughing. I'm scared, I don't know if he has COPD or not but he's been to the doctor and all they say is that it's just his asthma but it's getting severe. We're hoping he gets tested but he's skeptical about doctors. I'm only 14 and I don't know anything about COPD and I need help please. I don't know if he even has it but my whole family is scared. Please give me some information on this disease and maybe some tips I can give to my dad to help him breathe better. Any help is appreciated, thank you.

-Concerned Son

Dear Concerned Son,
First of all, you are not wasting my time! You have some very valid questions and concerns! Coughing can be a part of COPD, and might be something called chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis causes a person to have to cough a lot often bring up mucus. Sometimes it is difficult to bring up the mucus because it is too far into the lung or too thick. There are medications and medical devices that can help to clear the lungs more easily.

“COPD and the Family As for the coughing until he loses consciousness: when you cough, you raise the pressure in the chest which then interrupts the blood flow back to the heart and eventually to the brain for a short period of time. The result is that often the person becomes dizzy or passes out. When the coughing stops, the blood flow returns to normal and the brain begins functioning normally. When your dad feels a coughing spasm coming on, he should sit down and breathe as much as he can through the coughing cycle. If he is driving or operating machinery, he should cease the activity until the spasm stops. I know this may sound frightening, but as long as he is sitting or not involved in driving or other activities, he will be fine when the coughing stops.

You are right that he should be tested. He should ask his doctor for a referral to a pulmonary doctor who can help get to the bottom of it. The tests are pretty simple and should be able to tell him if he has COPD or some other condition that might be causing his symptoms.

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Tags: COPD coughing spasms family caregiving support
Categories: Coaches Corner

COPD in 2016

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This blog post was written by Dr. Byron Thomashow, COPD Foundation Chairman of the Board.

The times are changing. All COPD is not the same and everyone with COPD should not be treated the same way. For over 50 years, we have known that some people with advanced COPD have increased survival when they use Oxygen. For over 20 years, we have known that there is an inherited form of COPD called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that can be treated with intravenous therapy. Everyone with COPD should be tested for alpha-1.

“Dr. Byron Thomashow For over 10 years, we have known that a subset of people with upper lobe predominate emphysema can benefit from a surgical procedure called Lung Volume Reduction Surgery where the worst areas of emphysema are removed. In carefully selected patients, this procedure can improve quality of life, exercise capacity, and even survival, the first therapy since Oxygen shown to improve survival in advanced COPD. We are now developing less invasive approaches using a flexible tube called a bronchoscope which allows placement of valves or coils to perform lung volume reduction. Several of these devices have already been approved in Europe and will be evaluated here by the FDA in coming years.

Over the last decade we he have learned that there are people with COPD who are “frequent exacerbators”, who have two or more “flares of disease” a year and that they behave differently than those with COPD who are not “frequent exacerbators.” We now have a number of excellent medications that can treat these “frequent exacerbators” and reduce the “flares of disease.” We are learning that even this group can be better defined. We now know that those with a chronic bronchitic form of COPD with chronic cough and sputum who have frequent exacerbations could benefit from a daily oral pill. And more recently we are learning that “frequent exacerbators” with an elevated number of eosinophils (allergy blood cells) might well benefit from specific therapy, and new therapies for this subtype are already being studied.

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Tags: advances in COPD COPD cure treatment
Categories: Medications, Treatments and Therapies

Why Advocate?

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This blog post was written by Karen Deitemeyer, COPD State Captain and community advocate.

Do you remember what the Lorax said? “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get done. It’s not.”

Lorax quotes

Well, that’s pretty much how I feel and why I have been an advocate for various issues for most of my life. I remember, as a child, going with my mother to various American Cancer Society (ACS) events in my hometown – selling daffodils to raise money for the ACS.

Then, when I was a teenager, my mother had to have a radical mastectomy. For many years as an adult I advocated for more and more research dollars for the ACS, for more support and more awareness of breast cancer. The increased funding has led to less disfiguring, less radical surgeries, and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, I had many more options, and a much greater chance of survival than my mother did.

I was officially diagnosed with COPD in 2001, but it wasn’t until a few months after my breast cancer surgery in 2008 that I realized that although breast cancer has many advocates, who raise lots of funds and awareness, there was nothing comparable for COPD.

So I chose to focus my energy on COPD - to speak to decision makers, to other patients, to providers, to anyone who would listen. COPD has been ignored for way too long!! The death rate from COPD is greater than the death rate from breast cancer and diabetes combined, yet those two diseases receive far more funding and awareness.

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Tags: advocacy COPD get involved Lorax quotes patient-powered research network
Categories: Personal Stories

New Medications for COPD?

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Dear COPD Coach,
Why aren’t there more drugs out there for COPD? Other people with COPD that I talk with seem to all take the same medications. Also, I am always hearing about some big advances in research with other diseases, but I don’t hear much about COPD. What is going on?

—Looking for Answers

Dear Looking,
This is a topic that is very much a concern for those in the COPD community. However, the answer is not really an easy one to explain, but I will try.

The importance of research for COPD COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and unlike many of the other diseases, the numbers continue to rise. As far as new medications, much of this development depends on research. What is interesting to note is that despite this dubious distinction, COPD consistently gets the lowest levels of research funding. Simply put, without the research, cures and new treatments are slow in coming.

Even with research, drug makers must face many hurdles in order for their product to make it to market. As a part of this process, the drug companies must do extensive trials in order to establish such things as product safety, dosage, side effects, interactions with other drugs, to name a few. In order to conduct these trials, the investigators must establish a protocol and once approved must recruit a cohort, which is a group of patients who are willing to participate. Establishing a trial and recruiting a cohort can be difficult, expensive, and very time consuming. Some cohorts have taken as long as a year to recruit, and often are the biggest obstacle for drug makers to overcome.

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Tags: COPD cures research
Categories: Coaches Corner

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