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CLINICAL FAQ

(Frequently Asked Questions)

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for two respiratory illnesses — chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema. There are 16 million Americans who have been diagnosed with COPD, of whom 14 million have chronic bronchitis and 2 million have emphysema.

COPD results primarily from smoking tobacco. Years of smoking cause damage to the airways in the lungs. This lung damage continues to progress with the use of tobacco. Average current and former smokers will likely not notice or acknowledge symptoms for several years. Typically, they will begin noticing the first symptoms of shortness of breath when they reach their 40s. However, earlier signs of COPD are often present. These include chronic cough and increased mucus production. Recognizing these early signs is important because lifestyle modifications, such as smoking cessation and avoiding respiratory irritants, can be made to prevent additional damage to the airways.

In technical terms, COPD is a slowly progressive disease that is characterized by a decrease in the ability of the lungs to maintain the body's oxygen supply and remove carbon dioxide. As a result of this decrease in lung function, COPD patients alter their lifestyles because they become short of breath after minimal exertion. For example, instead of climbing a flight of stairs COPD patients take the elevator. Physical activities also take longer to complete. Lawn mowing that a COPD patient might have finished in 40 minutes only a year ago may now take an hour to do.

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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common disease that occurs in the airways of the lungs known as the bronchial tubes. Normally when a person breathes in and out, the muscles surrounding these airways are relaxed, allowing air to move freely. But when a person has asthma, allergens, environmental triggers, or infections cause these muscles to tighten up, making it more difficult for air to move freely in and out of the airways and causing shortness of breath and a whistling or wheezing sound. This tightening, which is linked to persistent inflammation in the airways, is called “bronchospasm.” In some cases the airways can become swollen or filled with mucus as well, making breathing even more difficult.

About 12 to 15 million Americans are affected by asthma. Many people first have signs of the disease in childhood, but it’s important to note asthma can occur for the first time at any age. Particularly vulnerable are those with a family history of asthma or those with a history of allergies or exposure to tobacco smoke. Some people also have a form of the disease known as exercise-induced asthma, which is triggered by strenuous physical activity.

What is Childhood Asthma?

Like adults with asthma, children with the disease experience a tightening of the muscles in the airways known as bronchial tubes. This tightening, or bronchospasm, makes it more difficult for air to flow in and out of the lungs, producing the characteristic wheezing or whistling sound common in asthma and making breathing more difficult. People with asthma generally always have inflammation in their airways which contributes to this tightening. The tightening of the airways, however, usually occurs as a result of some sort of trigger. These triggers range from allergens and environmental exposures to exercise and infections. Strong emotions can also trigger an asthma attack in children, but this occurs much more infrequently than people have believed. The important thing for parents to remember is, asthma is in the airways, not in the head.

Although asthma can occur for the first time at any age, many people with the condition developed it first as children. In fact, asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting around 10 percent to 12 percent of all children in the United States. Most kids who develop the disease begin to have symptoms by age five, but symptoms can arise later in childhood as well.

What puts a child at particular risk for asthma? Studies have shown having a family history of the disease is a good predictor of whether a child will develop asthma, and most children with asthma—up to 80 percent—also suffer from significant allergies. Inner city children, who are more likely to be exposed to allergens and irritants associated with asthma, such as cockroaches and secondhand tobacco smoke, are especially prone to the condition, with some estimates suggesting as many as 35 percent to 40 percent of these children have the disease. Also at higher risk are children whose mothers smoked while they were pregnant or who were born with lower birth weights.

Can children outgrowth their asthma? The answer to that question is, sometimes. While most children with asthma will always have sensitive airways, about half will see a significant lessening of their symptoms as they move into adolescence. Among this group, however, about half will see their asthma return, often when they are in their 30s and 40s.

DID YOU KNOW?

Back and knee pain are the most common complaints of adults.

Active adults can find relief in orthopedic bracing; knee and back braces in particular.

BACK PAIN

Back pain is one of the most common complaints among adults and can be caused by everything from strained muscles to bulging discs. About 80 percent of people in the United States experience at least one bout of lower-back pain in their lives.

A back brace can help alleviate muscle tension by reducing pressure on the spine, thereby reducing the amount of strength needed in the muscles to support the spinal column. Additionally, heat from the brace can help relax tense muscles, contributing to pain relief. There are a number of conditions for which a brace can be prescribed by a physician including: muscle tension and strain, spinal stenosis, degenerative discs, vertebral compression fractures, spondylolysis, and post-operative healing.

Consultation with a doctor is recommended as its prescription is one aspect of a comprehensive treatment program and non-recommended use can cause further injury and pain.

KNEE PAIN

Knee braces have become a common treatment option for millions of Americans, young and old, who suffer from knee pain. They are inexpensive, easy to find and comfortable to wear. A knee brace can take pressure off the part of your joint most affected by certain injuries or arthritis and help relieve pain. A brace can also help you stand and move around with more confidence.

The decision to wear a structural support for the knee should be based on several factors, including:

 

  • Which ligaments are injured

  • What rehabilitation you have done or plan to do

  • The sport in which you are participating

It is always wise to consult your physician on which knee brace is right for you.