The whole world feels a bit greyish and gloomy today, as generational fan favorite actor, poet and filmmaker Leonard Nimoy, known especially for his iconic character Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” has died. He was 83.
It was announced today that Mr. Nimoy passed away due to complications from COPD. We were not sure exactly what that condition was and how it plays havoc with one’s health, and conferred with Dr. Raj Dasgupta MD, FACP, FCCP, is an internationally recognized pulmonologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the famed USC Keck School of Medicine. Dr. Raj can be seen on The Doctors TV Show speaking about anything from COPD to sleep issues.
Dr. Raj Dasgupta, too, tells us he was a fan of “Spock” and shared with us information about COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “It is a sad day when one of the most iconic science fiction actors has passed away from COPD. I hope his passing will be an inspiration for further research in the early diagnose and treatment for this deadly disease. He will be truly missed”
Mr. Nimoy, who played first officer to William Shatner’s Captain Kirk on the Starship Enterprise in TV and movies, died Friday morning in Bel-Air, California.
The actor revealed via his very active social media accounts like Twitter that he was struggling with the ailment in 2014. Mr. Nimoy had been a smoker, and despite quitting, he had done too much damage: “I quit smoking 30 yrs ago. Not soon enough. I have COPD … Smokers, please understand. If you quit after you’re diagnosed with lung damage it’s too late. Grandpa says learn my lesson. Quit now. LLAP,” Nimoy tweeted in separate posts last year.
Earlier this week, Nimoy tweeted for the last time, writing, “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP,” signing the tweet with his iconic phrase “Live Long and Prosper.”
“I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love,” his “Star Trek” co-star William Shatner said in a tweet.
Flowers will be placed on his star in on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 10:30 a.m. PT, officials said.
We asked Dr. Raj Dasgupta about this condition that took Mr. Nimoy’s life.
What is COPD, and during winter should patients ever use anti-virals or antibiotics as prevention against getting sick?
Dr. Raj Dasgupta: COPD is a lung disease that is caused by damage to the lungs over many years, usually from smoking. There are two diseases that come into play, Chronic bronchitis, where the airways that carry air to the lungs get inflamed and make a lot of mucus and make it difficult to breath. Add to this Emphysema, where the tiny air sacs inside the lungs are damaged and lose their stretch. Less air gets in and out of the lungs, which shortens breath too. COPD gets worse over time and the damage cannot be undone to your lungs. But you can take steps to prevent more damage and to feel better.
All patients with chronic lung disease including COPD should be up to date with their pneumonia and annual influenza vaccination. This is the best preventative treatment for long-term management of COPD. Patients should only take anti-viral medication, drugs such as oseltamivir marketed under the brand name Tamiflu, to prevent and treat influenza A and B. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of oseltamavir within 48 hours of the first symptoms of infection for people who are at high risk for complications. The use of prophylactic antibiotics is a very intriguing discussion among physicians especially in pulmonary medicine. Studies have shown a reduction in acute COPD exacerbations when carefully selected patients take antibiotics called macrolides over an extended period of time. Long term prophylactic antibiotic use can have side effects, therefore it should be discussed extensively with a lung specialist.
Should patients wear surgical masks when out in crowded public places in the winter? Or any other time? Can this help?
Dr. Raj Dasgupta: By far the best protection against the Influenza virus is the flu vaccine while incorporating proper hand washing. Wearing surgical masks does not guarantee protection from airborne infections like the flu. It is important to realize that mask use in the public setting cannot be compared to the hospital facemasks, which are highly effective. Unfortunately there is very little evidence about the effectiveness of using facemasks in a public setting to prevent the spread of infection.
Should COPD patients get both a flu and pneumonia vaccine early before flu season?
Dr. Raj Dasgupta: Acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Most acute exacerbations are caused by community-acquired respiratory infections. Influenza and pneumococcal vaccines are currently recommended for all persons with COPD. Influenza vaccination clearly reduces the number of acute exacerbations that occur in persons with COPD and may reduce hospitalizations and mortality from COPD. Vaccination with both influenza and pneumococcal vaccines may produce an additive effect that reduces exacerbations more effectively than either vaccine alone.
There is also a connection between allergic asthma and COPD referred to as the Asthma COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS). COPD can produce symptoms that manifest as an asthma flare secondary to allergies. If you have COPD and a history of allergies, your doctor may consider blood tests to determine what is causing your exacerbations. Also, Individuals with COPD should limit exposure to potential allergens regardless of their disease severity.