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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Emphysema - final stage

10/22/2008

Question:

My mother, age 78, has gone through the stages from COPD to Emphysema since diagnosed 15 years ago. She is in Stage 5, I believe that is the reference, and things have changed a bit. She has many doctors and receives great care, so this is mainly for my understanding. For the past 4-5 years she has spent much of her time doing breathing treatments of one medication or another, and this caused her to cough and expectorate a lot of mucous, etc. In the past 1-2 months though, it seems that she has stopped coughing, almost all together. I`m wondering, as emphysema progresses, is part of the final stage that a patient may stop coughing due to inablility to cough (condition is worsening), or is there another reason she may not be coughing like she used to? Everything else that she`s experienced goes along with what I`ve read about, but NOT coughing at this final stage doesn`t seem to be addressed in any literature. Your time is greatly appreciated.

Answer:

People with emphysema may or may not have a chronic cough. How long ago did your mother stop smoking?  The longer a COPD patient has been off cigarettes, generally the less likely they are to have a chronic cough.  Most emphysema patients have an ability to cough even as the disease becomes very far advanced. If someone stops coughing it is usually because he/she does not need to cough, not because they are too weak.

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Response by:

Mahasti   Rittinger, RRT Mahasti Rittinger, RRT
Clinical Program Manager of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University