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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a life-threatening condition commonly caused by years of smoking. Doctors say that over time the damage interferes with the natural exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs.

COPD is not curable but treatment can extend a patient’s life. Doctors often treat it with steroids. Now, a study shows that low doses of the medicine given by mouth are equal to, or better than, a heavy dose administering into the blood.Researchers studied patients treated at four hundred hospitals in two thousand six and two thousand seven. The patients received steroids either intravenously or by mouth.

The study found that those who received lower doses of steroids by mouth spent less time in the hospital. Also, their risk of side effects such as glaucoma, high blood pressure and edema, or swelling in the legs, was reduced. Peter Lindenauer from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, led the study. The findings are in the Journal of the American Medical Association.The World Health Organization estimates that more than two hundred million people have been found to have COPD. Most live in low and middle income countries.

COPD blocks airflow in the lungs. Patients have to think about their breathing. They also have to exercise. And they have to learn to calm themselves, especially when they are short of breath. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, as well as asthmatic bronchitis. One sign of it is a wheezing sound when the person breathes. Another symptom is a cough that produces yellow mucus and does not go away. Miners and chemical workers are at risk of COPD from breathing dust and harmful chemicals. But the most common cause is long-term smoking or years of breathing other people’s smoke.

Francis Welch is a retired dentist, former smoker and now a COPD patient. Stopped smoking more years ago. He also persuaded his son to stop. Mr. Welch says his son quit smoking when he saw his father walking around with a can of liquid oxygen.And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report. You can comment on this report at our website, You can also get transcripts, MP3s and archives of our reports.

Words in This Story

chronic – adj. (especially of a disease or something bad) continuing for a long time

obstructive – adj. trying to stop someone from doing something by causing problems for them

lifethreatening – adj. a life-threatening disease is a very serious one that can cause death

interfere – v. to involve yourself in a situation when your involvement is not wanted or is not helpful

glaucoma – n. a disease of the eye that can cause a person to gradually lose their sight

oedema – n (US edema) .an unhealthy condition in which liquid collects in the body tissues between the cells

swelling – n. a part of your body that has become bigger because of illness or injury

pulmonary – adj. relating to the lungs (= organs used for breathing)

emphysema – n. a condition in which the small sacs (= spaces) in the lungs become filled with too much air, causing breathing difficulties and heart problems

bronchitis – n. an illness in which the bronchial tubes become infected and swollen, resulting in coughing and difficulty in breathing

asthmatic – adj. of, relating to, or suffering from asthma

asthma – n. a medical condition that makes breathing difficult by causing the air passages to become narrow or blocked

wheeze – v. to make a high, rough noise while breathing because of some breathing difficulty

mucus – n. a thick liquid produced inside the nose and other parts of the body

miner – n. a person who works in a mine

mine – n. a hole or system of holes in the ground where substances such as coal, metal, and salt are removed

persuade – v. to make someone do or believe something by giving them a good reason to do it or by talking to that person and making them believe it

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