When Roman Reznik, M.D., talks about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), he stresses two major points for the public to consider.
Dr. Reznik, who sees patients at St. Rose Health Center, took the opportunity to share a bit of advice during November, which is COPD Awareness Month.
He is based at Hays Medical Center but cares for patients at St. Rose once a month; his nurse practitioner also visits St. Rose monthly. They are here on different days.
“The take-away message about COPD has two key points,” Dr. Reznik said. “First, smokers are at high risk for COPD. And second, if you think you may have COPD, make an appointment with your primary-care physician who can refer you to a pulmonologist if necessary.
“Sometimes people assume a breathing problem is COPD, which it might be. However,” he noted, “it could be something different. It could be asthma, heart-related or a variety of other things.”
COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and/or sputum production.
The disease can lead to difficulty walking short distances and an inability to perform other activities of daily living such as climbing stairs.
In addition to smokers, other at-risk populations include welders; older farmers who drove tractors without cabs; and industrial workers that use certain chemicals on the job.
Pulmonologists rely on breathing tests and x-rays to determine if the problem really is COPD or something else.
“These are the basic diagnostic tools that help us decide what action to take,” Dr. Reznik said. “The tests are performed right here at St. Rose. This is great for local and area patients because they don’t have far to travel.”
In most cases, COPD is treated with medications that could involve inhalers or nebulizers.
Dr. Reznik suggested that those who have COPD, or are at risk, should consider the flu vaccine and pneumonia shot.
“These folks have a higher risk of developing infections,” he explained. “Bad lungs tend to do poorly with infections.”
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States; it kills more than 120,000 people annually.
“We will see even more of this in the next 10 to 15 years,” Dr. Reznik said. “This is because of heavy smoking in the 1980s and 90s. It takes time to develop COPD.”
About one-fourth of Dr. Reznik’s patients have COPD. Others have conditions such as lung cancer, asthma, shortness of breath or a persistent cough.
St. Rose specializes in primary care, prevention and wellness. Services include St. Rose Family Medicine, Convenient Care Walk-in Clinic, Great Bend Internists, Imaging, Cardiac Rehab, Physical Therapy, Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice and a comprehensive Specialty Clinic. St. Rose is co-owned by Hays Medical Center and Centura Health.