What Is COPD?
COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is a progressive disease that makes it difficult to breathe. “Progressive” means the disease gets worse over time. COPD can cause shortness of breath, chronic cough with mucous production, wheezing, and frequent respiratory infections. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke, or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust may also contribute to COPD.
COPD is a major cause of disability, and it’s the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD. An additional 12 million are likely to have the disease and don’t even know it.
COPD develops slowly. Symptoms often worsen over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities. Severe COPD may prevent you from doing even basic activities like walking, cooking, or taking care of yourself. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people. The disease isn’t passed from person to person—you can’t catch it from someone else.
The Goal of COPD Treatments are to:
- Relieve your symptoms
- Prevent further deterioration in lung function and slow the progress of the disease
- Improve your exercise tolerance (your ability to stay active)
- Improve your overall health and quality of life
- Prevent and treat complications
The Treatment Strategies Include:
- Quitting cigarette smoking
- Medications including pills and inhalers (puffers) to open the airways (bronchodilators)
- Prevention of lung infections
- Some patients with severe COPD may benefit from regular oxygen supplementation
- Pulmonary rehabilitation; Learning breathing techniques and increasing exercise ability
For more information about COPD research and treatment please click here.