Respiratory Therapist/COPD?


My brother in law has been a smoker for many years and is also a deisel mechanic so he deals with asbestos in truck brakes. He was diagnosed with COPD several months ago and was put on a maintenance inhaler and given a rescue inhaler. He has shown some improvement, so the doctor says it can't be COPD because COPD never improves. Is this correct? If so, can you suggest what other breathing disorders he should be screened for, anything that would fit his symptoms: dyspnea, coughing, excessive phlegm at times, wheezing, and hypoxia? He has a history of allergies but no history of asthma, and he is 39 years old.
Thank you for your help,

Hi Amy,

A 39-year-old COPDer? That is VERY young to be disagnosed with COPD. As a disease, COPD is not "curable" but it highly "treatable." Patients with COPD can often have their sypmptoms treated with maintenance and rescue inhalers as wellas a healthy diet and exercise, but the condition does not generally "improve." The only way to STOP COPD from worsening is to STOP the behaviour that caused it. If he hasn't stopped smoking, he needs to ASAP or his symptoms WILL continue to worsen.  

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Larry W. Wical, BA-RRT


I CAN answer: ALL questions and queries related to the following topics... - Oxygen - Asthma - COPD - Bronchitis - Emphysema - Pneumonia (Viral/Bacterial) - Tuberculosis (TB) - SARS - Influenza (Flu) - Vaccines - Pulmonary Embolism - Pleural Effusion - Atelectasis - Inhalation injuries (burns, chemicals, etc.) - PFTs - Cardiovascular health - Sleep Apnea - BiPap/CPAP - Ventilators ("Respirators") - Aspiration injuries - Thoracic injuries - Lung contusions - Tracheal injuries - Artificial Tracheostomy - Secretions - Prolotherapy/Regenerative Injection Therapy (RIT): A patient's experience/perspective - General health and fitness I CANNOT answer: Questions that vary too far from my primary scope of pulmonary and cardiovascular care and fitness. I promise to be open and honest about my knowledge of submitted topics, and will always openly provide my personal as well as professional feedback as it relates.


Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT, RCP) since 2005. I have worked primarily in the acute care, critical care, burn care and home care settings.

NBRC - National Board of Respiratory Care AARC - American Association of Respiratory Care

-All About Kids Magazine -The Clermont Sun -Cincy Sports & Fitness Magazine -Many online Fitness and Health blogs and "webazines"

- B.A. in Communication (1997) - A.A.S. in Respiratory Science (2005) - RRT license (state of OH, KY and IN) - Basic Life Saving (BLS) - Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) - Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS)

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Currently work in the city's largest academic/research hospital.

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