Editor’s Note: “2 Your Health” is a new column in the Robson Ranch Views dedicated to health issues. Each month different doctors and or medical associations, from varying specialties, will be writing on issues of importance. Articles are based on experiences and independent research conducted by the doctors or medical associations. We encourage anyone considering changing medications and or altering medical therapy, as a result of information contained in these articles, to consult your doctor first. Robson Publishing, a division of Robson Communities, Inc. is not liable for information contained in these articles.
Better tomorrows are here for those suffering from COPD
Recently diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and shortly before his death on February 27, 2015 Leonard Nimoy tweeted, “Not soon enough.” He was referring to his decision to quit smoking. Nimoy had quit 30 years before, but the damage was done. Nimoy told Pharrell Williams last year in an interview, “I flunked chemistry in high school.” Apparently young Nimoy hadn’t fully grasped the long-term effects of smoking. He spent his final year of life urging people to stop smoking now, before it’s too late. The internationally beloved actor was 82 years old.
COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer with 12 million people diagnosed and another 12 million undiagnosed. Mr. Nimoy is not the only celebrity to have developed COPD. Such entertainment icons as Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and Leonard Bernstein suffered from COPD, which played a role in each of their deaths.
Physicians prescribe bronchodilators to expand airways and allow more air into and out of the lungs. It’s common for COPD treatment plans to include supplemental oxygen to regulate diminishing blood-oxygen levels brought on by poor lung function. While these treatments help, they don’t cure COPD. They manage symptoms.
A stigma carried by smoking-related illnesses—that patients only have themselves to blame—has perhaps hampered research funding. But many started smoking as minors, lured by marketing targeted to children.
A clinic in the Unites States is creating hope for people with COPD by developing a treatment using stem cells from the patient’s body. The Lung Institute (lunginstitute.com) has performed over 1,500 treatments since 2013, harvesting stem cells through a minimally-invasive procedure, isolating them and returning them to the patient. The result can slow further degeneration and bring normal life within reach. Their 70 percent success rate and increased quality of life for their patients speak volumes.
Nimoy took precious time to issue a warning, that with degenerative lung disease it’s impossible to know when enough damage has been done that the lungs will continue to degenerate. However, new advancements are in practice, and COPD may soon be on the decline. Regardless of the individual causes of lung disease, all deserve a chance to fight for better tomorrows. With innovative treatments like stem cell therapy, that hope has now become a reality for thousands.