Dear COPD Doctor,
I am 56 yrs old and was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema five months ago. Recently, I was experiencing a bronchitis episode at the same time carpet was being installed in my basement. I suffered a severe respiratory reaction from the carpet glue they were using, which resulted in 3 months of home oxygen, prednisone and an inhaler. When I was first diagnosed, I was given Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs), which revealed severe emphysema with an FEV 1 of 34%. I began a pulmonary rehabilitation program hoping to improve my poor prognosis and prevent future exacerbations. I must also admit to having a 30 year history of smoking one half pack a day, which I immediately quit during my severe respiratory distress.
Recently, I have also been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and I am no longer able to continue with pulmonary rehab due to muscle pain and weakness, along with increased shortness of breath. I had been walking 1.5 miles on the treadmill 3 times a week without oxygen and only slight dyspnea. My questions to you are as follows:
Have you had any experience with any other patients having severe respiratory distress, being diagnosed with COPD/emphysema after inhalation of an environmental toxin, such as carpet glue?
Is there any connection between the severity of my emphysema, poor lung function, and the severity of my untreated hypothyroid? Since being diagnosed with hypothyroidism I have experienced increased shortness of breath, both of which are symptoms of COPD and hypothyroidism so I really don’t know if my COPD is getting worse or not. My endocrinologist feels that my emphysema is not as severe as thought to be and that I will see an improvement in my PFT’s once my thyroid condition has been corrected. My pulmonary doctor doesn’t believe that there is any connection between thyroid disease and emphysema.
–Connection Between COPD and Thyroid Disease?
Your letter asks many questions, some of which I couldn’t answer without further information. I will try to answer what I can based on the information in your letter. First of all, exposure to carpet glue wouldn’t cause emphysema but could certainly cause worsening of symptoms. Hypothyroidism does not cause emphysema but the weakness it can cause can make breathing worse and certainly if it limits ability to exercise it will limit therapy of COPD.
As soon as possible you need to get back into regular exercise program again and build up your exercise tolerance. Was the carpeting removed from basement? Sometimes that can help along with use of HEPA air purifiers and dehumidifiers in basement. You should also take this opportunity to review all your medications with your lung specialist and make sure you COPD regimen has been maximized.
Hope this helps, and thanks for writing,
The COPD Doc
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