COPD is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is caused by damage to the lungs over many years, usually from smoking. COPD is a mix of two diseases: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Other things that may put you at risk for COPD include breathing chemical fumes, dust, or air pollution over a long period of time. Second-hand smoke is also bad.
In chronic bronchitis, the airways that carry air to the lungs (bronchial tubes) get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. This can narrow or block the airways, making it hard for you to breathe. In emphysema, the air sacs in your lungs are damaged and lose their stretch. Less air gets in and out of your lungs, which makes you feel short of breath.
COPD gets worse over time. You cannot undo the damage to your lungs.
Over time, you may find that:
But there are things you can do to prevent more damage and feel better.
The main symptoms are:
At times, your symptoms may suddenly flare up and get much worse. This is a called a COPD exacerbation (say "egg-ZASS-er-BAY-shun"). When this happens, your usual symptoms quickly get worse and stay bad. This can be dangerous. You may have to go to the hospital.
Don't smoke. That is the best way to keep COPD from getting worse. If you already smoke, it is never too late to stop. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
You can do other things to keep COPD from getting worse:
COPD is treated with medicines and oxygen. You also can take steps at home to stay healthy and keep your COPD from getting worse.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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