Healthwatch: "Smoker's Disease"

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Ninety percent of people diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are smokers.

"Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is comprised of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema," said Rush Hospital's Dr. Raul Pinon.

Dr. Pinon says that, besides being a very serious medical problem, there is no cure for COPD, which accounts for $30 billion in health care costs per year.

"The diagnosis is based on history of someone that smokes," said Pinon. "Formal pulmonary function tests that measure long values combined with pulmonary functions will give the diagnosis."

Some symptoms of the disease include shortness of breath, progressive cough, and mucus production that lasts more than three months at a time.

"Patients need to understand that when they have COPD, if they don't quit smoking, it can become fatal. There are certain inhalers or steroids that the patient can take, but it will just help you feel better. It will not cure the disease," Pinon said.

Another option that Rush Hospital provides is pulmonary rehabilitation, where the patients stops smoking, starts a light exercise program, and over time, may slow down the disease process and increase cardiovascular health.