My 27 year old husband was diagnosed two weeks ago with COPD. He went to the doctor complaining of shortness of breath. They did a spirometer test and an xray. They told him that he has 70% of his lung capacity. I have never heard of someone this age given this diagnosis. Four days ago he collapsed in the bathroom, couldn't catch his breath and said that his chest hurt very badly. I took him to the emergency room and they immediately gave him five rounds of albuterol nebulizer treatments along with steroids. This seemed to work. Although his chest muscles are still sore he is breathing better. They sent him home with an albuterol inhaler and told him to make a follow up appointment. They said the attack was called COPD exhasberation. The diagnosing doctor did not give him any medications originally except for Chantix; he had never had an "attack" before. The doc said that because the COPD was in the beginning stages the most important thing was for him to quit smoking. He has been a smoker for about ten years, but he doesn't smoke any heavier than most people, about a pack a day. He also has never been exposed to any other irritants that would cause this that we can think of. I just can't understand how this has happened at such a young age. Most people who are diagnosed with this are in their 50s or 60s.
Please, if you have ever heard of anyone else being diagnosed this young please let us know and if you have any helpful advice for us (other than the standard quit smoking, we are working on that part) please let us know.
Thank you so much for your help, this is very scary for us.
I can understand your concern. This would be very worrisome, especially at your husband's age of 27. There is an inherited condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency or alpha-1 anti-protease deficiency that makes one's lungs very vulnerable to the toxic effects of cigarette smoke to the degree that, with smoking, one can develop emphysema at an early age, as early as 27. However if the spirometry was performed and interpreted correctly and he still has 70% of his predicted breathing capacity, then he still has a lot of lung power and it can be preserved with smoking cessation and possibly with alpha-1 protease replacement therapy. If he truly has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it would probably fall in the category of mild-moderate COPD.
However, his collapse with shortness of breath is not typical of COPD or a COPD exacerbation, both its suddenness and the accompanying pain suggestive of other diagnoses including a heart attack or a bad heart rhythm, or from a clot to the lungs also known as pulmonary embolus (PE). Once again, this is not what one sees with most COPD – it can occur with COPD causing low blood oxygen levels. There should be a thorough evaluation of the episode of "severe chest pain and shortness of breath" resulting in his collapse.
This all is too important to be left to chance. You should arrange for consultation with a lung specialist as known as a pulmonologist – your husband's doctor may be able to recommend a good one.
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