Lung disease rates higher in the Southeast


More and more people are finding that smoking, even for a short time, greatly increases the chances of developing a debilitating lung disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of progressive lung disease are higher in the southeastern United States than any other region of the country.

For years, Ellen Dobrin thought she had asthma. Then, she caught a cold that left her unable to breathe.

"I couldn't walk from here to here without stopping," said Dobrin. "It was just a nightmare."

Dobrin was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary lung disease, or COPD.

COPD is more common among cigarette smokers and people who have had chronic exposure to dust and air pollutants.

"There's an inflammation that starts in the lung that causes the airways to narrow down even after that exposure goes away," said Dr. Franck Rahaghi, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

The effects of COPD include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Many patients also suffer from asthma.

"It's a collection of entity with different manifestations, which actually is one of the reasons why care of COPD has been very variable because people don't have an exact hold on what it really is," said Rahaghi.

There is no cure for COPD and it will become progressively worse over time.

Dobrin has reached the point where she cannot be without oxygen, which greatly limits her life.

"This is not easy to walk around with. You can't go out for a day and an evening because you have to go home and refill," said Dobrin. "If you're smoking stop, now before you're wearing this."

Younger women are at greater risk of developing COPD and other lung diseases than men.

Health experts say it is important for women and girls to remember there is no such thing as a "safe smoke."