Yes, I spelled it correctly! In the last several weeks I have been seeing quite a few patients that have been sick at home or were in the hospital for what they were told was pneumonia. These patients are usually ones who have significant lung disease, usually COPD, of moderate degree or worse. There are several common themes in their stories. First, they were usually sick several weeks ago and are still coughing and suffering some additional shortness of breath. They also feel more fatigued and have less energy for any activity.
Next, they were usually told they had pneumonia, but had no cough, and when I review their chest x-rays they have no infiltrates in the lungs. What most of these patients are describing is an exacerbation of their COPD. These flare-ups can be caused by infection, but it does not need to be pneumonia. A simple viral infection of the airways can cause all of the symptoms noted. The lack of total improvement is now bringing the patient to the office. Here is an important fact to keep in mind following an exacerbation of COPD: 7% of the patients are not fully recovered in 90 days! This is why we try so hard to help you prevent exacerbations. Taking your medications regularly, getting flu and pneumonia vaccines, and frequent hand washing are all important parts of your long term treatment strategy. Getting help from your physician sooner, rather than later, for flare-ups helps reduce complications and hospitalizations.