(BPT) - Persistent dry cough. Fatigue. Shortness of breath. These symptoms are sometimes associated with a passing virus, especially during the peak of cold and flu season. Coughs can last an average of 18 days; however, if your dry cough is still lingering after two months, another condition, such as pulmonary fibrosis, might be the cause.
“There are more than 50,000 new cases of pulmonary fibrosis diagnosed every year, yet many patients have never heard of it prior to their diagnosis,” said William T. Schmidt, president and CEO of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF). “Some individuals with the disease may be first misdiagnosed with pneumonia, bronchitis or asthma, which is why it is imperative we continue to raise awareness about the disease, common symptoms and risk factors.”
What is pulmonary fibrosis?
While the condition is largely unknown, more than 200,000 Americans are living with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive, debilitating lung disease. In simple terms, pulmonary fibrosis is scarring in the lungs that, over time, can destroy the normal lung and make it hard for oxygen to get into the blood.
Currently, there is no cure once scarring has begun, but the PFF is mobilizing people and resources to provide access to high-quality care, as well as leading research for a cure so individuals with pulmonary fibrosis will live longer, healthier lives.
What are the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?
There are three main symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis — shortness of breath, a dry, hacking cough and fatigue. If you have two or more of these lingering symptoms, they should be taken seriously and you should speak with your physician.
“I started off with a slight, dry cough. I didn’t know what it was,” said Dot Delarosa, a pulmonary fibrosis patient who received a life-saving lung transplant in 2010. “I would talk and I would cough, talk and cough. To me, this was my normal.”
While anyone can develop pulmonary fibrosis, it is more likely to occur in those 60 years and older with a history of smoking, putting hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk for the disease. Other risk factors include: a family history of pulmonary fibrosis; prior or current use of certain medications such as chemotherapy and amiodarone; a history of radiation treatment to the chest; environmental and occupational exposures including indoor mold, birds or asbestos; and a previous diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune disease.
How do I find out if I have pulmonary fibrosis?
Although many of these symptoms are seen with more common diseases such as COPD, asthma and heart disease, it is important to consider pulmonary fibrosis. If you have symptoms or risk factors, the first step is to speak with your healthcare provider. Early diagnosis is key to maximizing treatment options. With a lesser known disease like pulmonary fibrosis, advocating for your health is crucial. To help you start that conversation with your doctor, a downloadable Pulmonary Fibrosis Risk List is available at AboutPF.org.
To be diagnosed, you may need further testing after a thorough physical exam with your physician. Testing to help facilitate a clear diagnosis may include pulmonary function testing and/or high-resolution computed tomography.
If further action needs to be taken, you can find a local pulmonologist through the PFF Care Center Network, which includes centers with experience in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary fibrosis.
For more information or to find a pulmonologist near you, visit AboutPF.org.
(BPT) - When Fern started coughing over and over again, she was repeatedly diagnosed with bronchitis and recurring pneumonia. However, both Fern and her husband Philip knew that something wasn’t quite right. Fern and Philip’s persistence led to Fern’s diagnosis of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease, a progressive and chronic condition caused by bacteria that are common in the environment.
“It took over six years for Fern to be accurately diagnosed with NTM lung disease and every day leading up to the diagnosis was a challenge — from doctors telling us no treatment was needed to the day-to-day reality of respiratory therapies,” said Fern’s husband, Philip. “But the biggest challenge by far was not being able to definitively state what she had and not knowing what plan of action to pursue.”
About NTM Lung Disease
Nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease is an infection caused by bacteria that are aerosolized, which means they exist in water particles that float in the air and are breathed in. NTM bacteria is common in the environment and can be found places such as tap water, showerheads, steam from hot tubs, mist and soil from parks and gardens. In fact, one study across 25 states showed that
NTM bacteria was found in nearly eight out of ten water samples.
Everyone comes into contact with NTM bacteria during their daily lives. However, not everyone is at risk of getting NTM lung disease. Most people do not become infected because their lungs are healthy enough to clear the bacteria. But people who have conditions such as bronchiectasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are more likely to develop NTM lung disease, because conditions that cause damage to the lungs make it difficult to clear NTM bacteria.
Since the symptoms of NTM lung disease, such as cough, fatigue and shortness of breath, are similar to those of other lung conditions, many people who have it may not even know it for months or sometimes years. NTM lung disease is sometimes misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all because many people with symptoms think it’s due to a lung condition they already have.
Talk to a Doctor about NTM Lung Disease
Over time, NTM lung disease symptoms can get worse, and in some cases, the disease can cause severe, even permanent damage to the lungs, so early detection and management is crucial. If you think you or a loved one may have NTM lung disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested and visit AboutNTM.com for additional information.
Resources for NTM Patients and Caregivers
Throughout the diagnosis and treatment journey, Fern and Philip met patients from across the country who had similar experiences. Together, Philip and Fern started a non-profit organization, NTM Information & Research (NTMir), to save and improve lives through research, education, early detection and improved treatments for people with NTM lung disease. Over the past ten years the organization has grown to be a significant resource for patients with NTM lung disease and their caregivers as well as clinicians who treat the condition.
“When Fern was first diagnosed, information about NTM lung disease was scarce and we knew the best way to arm ourselves was to find out as much about NTM as possible,” Philip said. “Learning more about the disease, starting conversations with doctors, getting support from those around you and others with the same condition — those are all imperative to patients and caregivers alike.”
NTMinfo.org provides a library of tools and information, as well as an online community, for additional support. Resources can also be found at AboutNTM.com, such as a discussion guide to help prepare for the next doctor appointment, real patient stories and information about NTM lung disease.
(BPT) - For people living with asthma, managing the condition becomes part of their daily life. But some may not know that, in spite of their best efforts, their asthma may still be uncontrolled.
Benjamin Buckley was one of those people. Ben, as he was known, was just 7 years old when he died from asthma-related complications in 2014. Now, Ben’s mother, Cristin Buckley, is sharing his story in an effort to help raise awareness of just how serious asthma can be.
According to Cristin, it was a normal Saturday morning in the Buckley household. Ben went to his sister’s basketball game with the rest of the family, but when the game ended, Ben asked if he could go home and use his nebulizer, as he was experiencing an asthma attack.
Later that day, Cristin received a frantic call from her husband and daughter and came home to find Ben had collapsed in the driveway. Police and paramedics were already on the scene performing CPR. They were able to start Ben’s heart, but he was unconscious and not able to breathe on his own. He remained in a coma for five days until he passed away.
“What we didn’t realize was that Ben was using his rescue inhaler way more than he should have been. We were refilling it once a month,” said Cristin. “The pharmacy just kept refilling the prescription, so we didn’t think it was an issue. Looking back now, we know his asthma was uncontrolled.”
And it appears the Buckley family is not alone, as studies indicate that asthma is responsible for deaths every day in the United States, most of which are believed to occur in patients with uncontrolled asthma.
“Uncontrolled asthma can have a huge impact on a patient’s health,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh, a New York City-based allergist and immunologist and national spokesperson for the Allergy and Asthma Network. “Patients may not know the signs — but if someone is using their rescue inhaler more than twice a week, and their asthma is interrupting daily activities and sleep, they should really talk to their doctor immediately to assess if it is uncontrolled.”
Cristin’s number one priority today is that Ben’s asthmatic twin brother Adam, now 11 years old, is equipped to handle an attack on his own. To ensure he is prepared, Cristin takes Adam for his annual check-up with his allergist before the school year starts.
“Make sure their doctor takes the time to sit down and teach them how to properly use their inhaler,” Cristin said. “People think they can just put it in their mouth and take a few puffs and it works just fine, but so much medicine is wasted or doesn’t get into the lungs because they’re not taking a deep enough breath.”
Another one of her main priorities, particularly before school starts, is to make sure all of Adam’s inhalers have enough medicine in them. As such, Cristin relies on inhalers fitted with dose counters to help both her and Adam better manage his asthma. A dose counter works by showing the user exactly how many doses are left in the inhaler — similar to looking at a bottle of pills to see how much medicine is left.
“I think dose counters are one of the best things ever invented,” Cristin said. “Before they were integrated into inhalers, you were blindly leading your child. You had no idea how much medicine was left.”
Dr. Parikh also noted that the addition of a dose counter to asthma management can create a helpful dialogue between patients and their doctors. She explained how the dose counter allows the doctor to see how much medicine has been used since the previous visit and determine if a patient is using their rescue inhaler too frequently.
“When using an inhaler that does not include a dose counter, you really are taking a gamble on your life,” said Cristin.
For additional information on the importance of dose counters, visit KnowYourCount.com, and for more on Ben and Cristin’s story, visit www.BenWasHere.org.
Mrs. Buckley has been compensated for her time in contributing this program.
(BPT) - Breathe in. Breathe out. Just take a moment to inhale and exhale. We too often take breathing for granted, but what if taking a breath was a challenge?
If you’re someone living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the third leading cause of death in the United States (US), or know someone living with this chronic respiratory disease, breathing challenges may impact how you live your life. As of 2010, there were more than 14 million people identified as having COPD in the US, and another estimated 12 million people who remain undiagnosed.
In an effort to celebrate life and the important role that breathing plays within it, AstraZeneca has partnered with New York City-based filmmaker Erlendur Sveinsson to produce Ode to Breathing. Ode to Breathing is a documentary-style short film that strings together brief vignettes, providing a moving look at people doing an ordinary yet profound thing: breathing. It can be found online at www.odetobreathing.com.
People living with COPD or their caregivers can consider the following tips when thinking about respiratory health.
1. Keep an eye on symptom changes. Early COPD detection can impact disease management, which makes it important to monitor for changes in your breathing and recognize symptoms such as shortness of breath while performing daily activities, chronic cough, fatigue and wheezing.
2. Remember, COPD in many cases is preventable. Risk factors to be aware of may include smoking tobacco (including second-hand or passive exposure); indoor air pollution (such as solid fuel used for cooking and heating); outdoor air pollution; occupational dusts and chemicals (vapors, irritants and fumes); and frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood.
3. Stay inspired and educated. Visit Ode to Breathing at www.odetobreathing.com and watch the inspirational video and access available helpful resources for COPD patients. One such resource is a free e-book that may help people with respiratory illnesses breathe easier with breathing exercises, tips for making day-to-day activities like chores easier, and ways to manage breathing challenges while at work or traveling.
4. Don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor. If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing COPD symptoms, speak to a healthcare provider to determine what options are available to help you breathe easier to help you enjoy life’s simple moments.
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