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2015 American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting Highlights.

Dr. Laurence G. NairThe National Emphysema Foundation President, Dr. Laurence G. Nair summarized some of the most interesting topics brought up during the conference.

After attending many informational sessions at the American Thoracic Society’s Annual Meeting, National Emphysema Foundation President, Laurence G. Nair, offered a summary of some of the most interesting topics brought up during the conference.

Several presentations described the sobering statistics regarding the use of resources in the diagnoses and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For instance, Nair referenced one meeting that cited the American Lung Association finding that $50 billion dollars was the cost to the economy for the treatment of COPD and its effect on lost production in the economy per year. Dr. Sanjay Sethi, from SUNY Buffalo, opened a presentation he had by stating that there are 10 million office visits a year for COPD, one million visits to the emergency department and over 700,000 hospital admissions. Additionally, Dr. Sethi noted that there is new data that indicates more women than men have COPD at this time and they are more likely to have symptoms than men.

The most important message, reiterated by almost every presenter and/or session was the understanding that COPD diagnoses and treatment is in the midst of a vast shift. Currently, we have been able to describe disease by what is seen and directly observed by the eye, by symptoms, structural abnormalities (using radiology), functional change (physiologic function by pulmonary function tests) and to some degree cellular findings. But new research indicates that science is reaching deeper, tapping into genealogy and relying on cellular biology and biomarkers more so than ever before. It is the hope of the scientists, physicians and clinicians who attended the conference as well as those around the world that these new findings, many of which were presented or discussed at ATS Denver 2015, will lead to faster and more accurate diagnosis, promote more customized treatment and identify those who require more aggressive therapy, allowing those with COPD to live their lives better than ever before.

An improved quality of life is the NEF mission.

The NEF’s mission is to improve the quality of life of patients with emphysema and their caregivers by providing and supporting educational, advocacy and research initiatives to the medical community and the general public. The NEF is dedicated to working to reduce the suffering and the toll emphysema is taking on innumerable sufferers in this country and abroad.


Emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are related lung conditions that are caused by many years of cigarette smoking (‘smoker’s lung’) and other factors.

4.9.13.rev.NEF.our.missionAn estimated 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema; 11.2 million U.S. adults were estimated to have COPD. The disease is estimated to kill more than 120,000 Americans each year. Smoking is the major cause, but with ever increasing air pollution and other environmental factors that negatively affect pulmonary patients, those numbers are on the rise.

In 1971, some concerned physicians and patients founded the National Emphysema Foundation (NEF). At that time, emphysema as a disease was not known to the public nor was there any national program to combat it. There was very little research or money allocated by the National Institutes of Health for the study of this disease in spite of the fact that there were over 15 million sufferers. There was no charitable foundation devoted exclusively to emphysema and COPD. It was the fourth leading cause of death, and now, it is the third.

Today the life and breath of more than thirty million Americans are threatened by emphysema. This disease progressively constricts the bronchial tubes and eventually destroys the air sacs. Yet this preventable killer disease is widely undiagnosed and untreated especially in its early stages when it is most responsive to therapy.

COPD and Emphysema afflict millions of adults and children today.

copd and emphysemaAn estimated 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema and 11.2 million U.S. adults have been estimated to have COPD. Emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are related lung conditions that are caused by many years of cigarette smoking (‘smoker’s lung’) and other factors.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive lung disease that negatively affects one’s ability to breathe. Most people who have COPD are living with both emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis, each of which affects the lungs in its own way.

In emphysema, damage to the walls between air sacs causes the sacs to lose their shape and often results in destruction of the walls themselves, thus creating fewer and larger air sacs instead of many tiny ones. As a result, the amount of gas exchanged in the lungs is reduced.

Chronic bronchitis, on the other hand, is characterized by irritation and inflammation to the lining of the airways, which causes the lining to thicken. In addition, thick mucus forms in the airways, making it difficult to breathe.

While tobacco use is the number one factor in the development and progression of COPD, exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections can also play a role in the disease. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and an increased production of mucus.

There are a number of treatments that can help patients living with COPD, including inhalers, steroids and oxygen therapy. However, the most important step to living a better life is to stop smoking.

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Get in the habit of living a heathly life.

nef_exerciseShortness of breath and weakness are two common problems of people with chronic lung diseases. As a result, many people avoid participating in physical activities that cause them shortness of breath. In turn, these people become weaker and their shortness of breath greater with even less activity.

A program of regular exercise can help break this vicious cycle.

Even in small amounts, exercise can help strengthen your muscles and make them more efficient—requiring less oxygen to perform the same activities. Further, by stretching muscles that are not regularly used, including the breathing muscles, everyday activities such as walking will become easier and lung function will improve.

While exercise may seem overwhelming at first, even walking at a very slow pace will benefit your overall quality of life. Exercise will improve your appetite, giving you the “fuel” and building blocks you need to repair and maintain your body’s lung function. Mild to moderate exercise has also been proven to improve mental function.

The benefits of light to moderate exercise will be apparent rather quickly after beginning a regular exercise routine. However, these positive effects can be lost just as quickly as they appeared. As such, once you begin the healthy habit of regular exercise, you should continue daily unless otherwise advised by your doctor or physician.

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