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COPD (Chronic Bronchitis, Emphysema) Share Print Page

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a progressive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. "Progressive" means the disease gets worse over time, especially if one smokes.

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Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are related lung disorders that can lead to COPD.

COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Someone with COPD is also more likely to have lung infections that can be fatal. The heart may also be affected in those with severe COPD. As COPD symptoms worsen, a person may have more difficulty with walking and exercising.

COPD Quick Facts

COPD and the Lungs

The air sacs are normally elastic and pull back to their original shape after being stretched and filled with air. This elastic quality helps to move the air quickly in and out of the lungs.

In COPD, the air sacs lose their elasticity causing the airways collapse. The air sacs cannot get the air out efficiently and stay inflated. This increases the size of the lungs although the amount of air moving in and out is reduced. The airways also become inflamed and produce more mucus which can further obstruct the flow of air.

COPD Severity

COPD can be classified by the severity of symptoms and results of various tests.

COPD Treatment

COPD cannot be cured. However, there are COPD treatments available that can help you breathe easier and prevent a worsening of symptoms

Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and slow the progress of the disease.

The goals of COPD treatment are to:

Treatment options include the following:

Your recommended treatment for COPD is based on a variety of factors, including the severity of symptoms and other medical conditions.

Managing COPD

Managing complications and preventing sudden onset of problems

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often have symptoms that suddenly get worse. This may included increased shortess of breath, chest tightness, more coughing, change in your sputum, and a fever. It is important to call your doctor if you have any of these signs or symptoms.

Sometimes the signs and symptoms are caused by a lung infection, such as pneumonia. If pneumonia is suspected, an antibiotic may be prescribed to fight off the infection.

Your doctor may also recommend additional medications to help with your breathing, such as corticosteroids or bronchodilators.

Your doctor may recommend that you be admitted to the hospital if symptoms are particularly severe and home treatment does not appear to provide sufficient relief.


Reference: The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute