Q. What is the difference between COPD and CIDP?

A. Thank you for your question. COPD and CIDP are two very different conditions. Both exhibit symptoms that can be frightening and detrimental to a person’s quality of life. But with adherence to a treatment plan, most patients can live normal lives.

CIDP is a rare immune system disorder, similar to the better-known Guillain-Barre Syndrome. It happens when immune cells attack the nerves’ fatty protective covering, called the myelin sheath.

Symptoms of CIDP include weakness and impaired movement in the arms and legs, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, and dizziness that occurs when you are standing up or stretching. Symptoms may appear gradually and worsen over time, or they may appear and disappear.

Immunosuppressant medication, physical and occupational therapy, orthotic devices, and long-term follow-up care by a physician can help relieve the symptoms. It is important for people to seek treatment early if they notice CIDP-like symptoms. It is also important to see a doctor to exclude more common causes of similar symptoms, like diabetes mellitus.

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is unfortunately more common and usually related to cigarette smoking. The term COPD refers to a group of lung diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which block airflow and make breathing difficult. Unlike asthma, the airway obstructions of COPD are not fully reversible with medications.

People with COPD experience shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and a chronic cough that produces mucus. Symptoms worsen as the disease progresses. COPD increases your chances of developing colds and flu, high blood pressure, heart disease and lung cancer.

First and foremost, people with COPD should stop smoking. A doctor may also prescribe inhaled bronchodilators or steroids such as those used by asthma patients, or supplemental oxygen. Surgery may be an option for severe cases.

In both COPD and CIDP, patients may begin to feel isolated, helpless or depressed. It’s important to have a good support system of family and friends. Some patients also seek professional help.

I suggest you speak with your primary care doctor about any troubling symptoms. I would also be glad to offer an opinion. You can reach my office at (412) 235-5810. You can also make an appointment online with a West Penn Allegheny doctor or obtain a physician referral by calling (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677.

Best wishes for your continued good health.

Andrew Adams, MD
Internal Medicine Physician, West Penn Medical Associates