Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious lung disease that, over time, makes it hard to breathe. You may have heard COPD called other names, like chronic bronchitis or emphysema. In COPD, the airways—the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs—are partly blocked, making it difficult to get air in and out.
Who is at risk?
- Smoking or having a history of smoking
- Long-term exposure to things that can irritate your lungs (secondhand smoke, certain chemicals, dusts or fumes)
- Genetic factors (a condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency)
- Eating bacon, sausage and other cured meats that can reduce lung functions
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Constant coughing, sometimes called "smoker's cough"'
- Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
- Excess sputum or phlegm production
- Being unable to take a deep breath
How is COPD diagnosed?
The breathing test used to diagnose COPD is spirometry. The simple test measures the amount of air you can blow out of your lungs and how fast you can blow it out.
How is COPD treated?
COPD is different for every person and your doctor will decide the best treatment for you. Quitting smoking is the most helpful and cost-effective way to prevent and slow the progression of COPD. Your doctor may talk to you about these options:
- Staying away from all tobacco smoke
- Avoiding things that can bother your lungs, such as dust, fumes, chemicals or smog
- Taking medicines to help treat symptoms like coughing or wheezing
- Getting yearly flu shots
- Using oxygen therapy
- Staying active and joining a pulmonary rehabilitation program
- Joining a support group
Is there a cure for COPD?
There is no cure for COPD. The damage to your airways and lungs cannot be reversed, but there are things you can do to feel better and slow the damage. You can take steps to make breathing easier and live a longer and more active life.