creators home
creators.com lifestyle web
Dr. David Lipschitz

Recently

It Is Time to Receive the Influenza Vaccination -- and That Means You! Compared to the, 36,000 deaths from Influenza that occurred in 2013, the nationwide panic about Ebola is drastically overrated. We should be much more concerned by the fact that less than 50 percent of adults receive the influenza vaccine. This is a …Read more. The Role of Mammograms in Improving Breast Cancer Survival Remains Controversial Although a small city, Little Rock Arkansas, where I live, has the second-largest Race For The Cure in the country. On Saturday, thousands of women turned out in support of breast cancer. Many of the women survivors were diagnosed early thanks to …Read more. Drug Costs May Cause Our Health Care System to Implode With the advent of drug plans, fewer patients are refusing to take common medications because of cost. The problem has also declined, as more and more blockbuster drugs are now generic. But as more of these common drugs become generic, fewer …Read more. It Is Never Too Early or Too Late to Pay Attention to Your Health So many of my patients in their early 70s and 80s scoff when I tell them it is not too late to start reforming and living a healthy lifestyle. However, research published in the British Medical Journal showed quite conclusively that developing a …Read more.
more articles

Air Pollution Exposure Raises Lung Disease Risk

Comment

Chronic obstructive lung disease is a major cause of death and disability.

Air pollution is one of the most prominent factors in the development of lung disease, accounting for more than 2.1 million deaths worldwide. The highest death rate is in population-dense Asia, where air pollution is particularly high.

Research conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters blames 75 percent of deaths from air pollution on increases in fine particulate matter in the air. These particles are small enough to penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing declines in lung function and a risk of cancer. The remaining 25 percent of deaths are due to lung damage caused by ozone in the air.

Air pollution causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Most commonly, the culprit is cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

Less commonly, an inherited disease, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, leads to COPD at a young age by making the lungs more susceptible to damage from any pollutant. And finally asthma, primarily caused by allergies, is a frequent cause of COPD.

To understand how COPD occurs, we first must understand the function of the lungs. With each breath, air moves through large airways called bronchi that divide into thousands of smaller tubes called bronchioles that eventually end in millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. Here, oxygen easily passes into capillaries, enters red blood cells and is transported throughout the body.

Exposures to pollutants damage the airways of the lung. Irritation of bronchi causes increased production of mucus and an inability to clear it from the lungs. The bronchi and bronchioles become blocked, and alveoli are irrevocably damaged and lose their ability to transfer oxygen from the air to red cells.

As lung function declines, the person breathes more often to maintain normal oxygen levels, and breathing feels harder. Initially, breathlessness occurs with moderate exertion, but eventually the person is breathless all the time.

Excessive production of mucus leads to a chronic cough and an increased risk of infection. As more and more damage to the lungs occur, oxygen levels drop to unacceptably low levels.

This in turn affects the body's metabolism, causes the heart to beat faster, enlarge and eventually fail.

Patients with COPD become dependent on oxygen, find even the most minor movement exhausting, are frequently hospitalized for infections and heart failure and become totally dependent on others.

COPD is a major cause of disability and the third leading cause of death after cancer and heart disease. While there is currently no known way to reverse the disease, there are therapies and lifestyle changes that can help relieve symptoms and slow the rate of progression of COPD. Diagnosis is usually made in middle age or later on the basis of exposure to pollutants (such as cigarette smoke), a chronic cough and shortness of breath. Often a chest X-ray or CT scan will be done to confirm the diagnosis and exclude the possibility of an underlying lung cancer — which is far more common in patients with COPD, irrespective of the cause.

The most important element of therapy is prevention.

Highly effective programs are available to assist with smoking cessation that include medications and, most importantly, support groups. No matter your age, avoid secondhand smoke, dusty environments and fumes that are known to irritate the lungs.

Anyone with impaired lung function must receive annual flu shots and vaccinations for pneumococcal pneumonia. And any infection, either viral or bacterial, is much more serious and often leads to illness severe enough to warrant hospitalization.

Irritation of the lung frequently leads to spasms of bronchi, which aggravates breathlessness and is often associated with wheezing. When spasms are present, bronchodilators may be prescribed. These are often combined with inhaled steroids that reduce spasm and relieve acute attacks of breathlessness. Newer combinations of medications offer the promise of more effective prevention of spasms that, when combined with therapies to assist in clearance of mucus, as well as appropriate physical therapy, can substantially reduce symptoms and the risk of serious infections.

Chronic lung disease remains a worldwide scourge. Even as smoking becomes less prevalent, air pollution remains a serious threat not only to the environment but to the health of everyone.

Dr. David Lipschitz is the author of the book "Breaking the Rules of Aging." To find out more about Dr. David Lipschitz and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. More information is available at: drdavidhealth.com.

COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM


Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
Other similar columns
Dr. Rallie McAllister
Your Health
by Dr. Rallie McAllister
Jennifer Merin
Around the World
by Jennifer Merin
Marilynn Preston
Energy Express
by Marilynn Preston
More
Dr. David Lipschitz
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month