2-Mar-15 4:00 PM  CST

Farewell Mr. Spock: The Dangers of COPD

“Live Long and Prosper.” Any fan of the 1960’s series “Star Trek” knows this as the moniker for one of the series most prominent characters, Mr. Spock.  Sadly, the actor who portrayed Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy, passed away last week due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  Whether or not you are a fan of the series or even if the names Spock and Leonard Nimoy are unfamiliar to you, the actor’s death has brought to light, the seriousness of COPD.

In Mr. Nimoy’s case and in most cases the diagnosis of COPD is the result of several years of chronic smoking. Although Mr. Nimoy had quit several decades prior to his death the damage from years of smoking heavily had already been done. COPD is an all-encompassing term that includes the disease states, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and bronchiectasis. More than 24 million people in the United States have COPD. Additionally, it is estimated that more than half of those that have COPD experience the symptoms, but have not yet been diagnosed with the disease.

Symptoms associated with COPD include, increased breathlessness, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and coughing. The incidence of COPD diagnosis is much more common as we age, typically after the age of 40 and older. Many people contribute their increased breathlessness as just another part of the aging process when it is actually a symptom of COPD.

Approximately 90% of people with a history of smoking, cigarettes, pipes, cigars, will be diagnosed with COPD at some point in their life. Even after a person quits smoking they are still at an increased risk for a diagnosis of COPD. Although a history of smoking is the primary contributor to COPD, it is not only contributor. Exposure to second hand smoke, long term exposure to workplace irritants and fumes, and genetics are all other factors leading to a potential diagnosis for COPD.

Patients that may be at risk due to genetic factors have Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD). Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein is a protein proven to be associated with an increased genetic risk for emphysema. So, even if a person has never smoked other factors, such as genetics may lead to a diagnosis of COPD. Being fully aware of these factors and not smoking are easiest ways to prevent the incidence of an irreversible and potentially deadly disease state.

 

Resources:

 

COPD Foundation, (2015), “What is COPD”, http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/Understanding-COPD/What-is-COPD.aspx, 28.February, 2015

 

WebMD, (2015), “Actor Leonard Nimoy Dies of COPD at Age 83”, http://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/news/20150227/leonard-nimoy-dies, retrieved, 28. February

 

 


For additional information on this article, please contact:
 
Kelley Simmons
 
Source: Sandy Andrews, CPhT, BLS  

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