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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

By Shannon Pierce

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

COPD is a lung disease, typically caused by smoking, that makes it hard to breathe. It is common for chronic bronchitis and emphysema to pair up to cause COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.  Chronic bronchitis occurs when the bronchial tubes become inflamed and produce too much mucus, blocking airways.  Emphysema occurs when the air sacs in your lungs are damaged and lose the stretch that helps your breath.  


Typically, patients over 60 begin experiencing COPD, since symptoms take so long to appear. COPD patients often experience a chronic cough, mucus in the cough, shortness of breath, especially with exercise. The worse the COPD gets, the more someone may experience shortness of breath in their day-to-day activities, even when eating.  They may experience weight loss, fatigue, or weakness, since day-to-day activities zap so much of their energy. 

COPD “exacerbations” may occur when symptoms flare up or worsen.  These experiences may be life-threatening at times and increase in severity the longer you have COPD.


As mentioned, COPD is caused by breathing in tobacco smoke, which damages the lungs. Breathing in harmful fumes such as chemicals, pollution, dust, or secondhand smoke may also damage your airways and your lungs overtime. When children experience serious lung infections, they may be at an increased risk of developing COPD as an adult.


Your doctor will most likely ask you about your medical background and do a physical exam to cover all bases.  Next, they may do a lung function test, or an FEV1 test to measure your breathing capability.  Chest x-rays can help a doctor determine if lung cancer or other cancers are present.



Treatment can help patients prevent further damage from COPD, but cannot reverse the effects of damaged lungs.  Quitting smoking if you haven’t already is the most crucial aspect of improving COPD. There are many things you can do for self-care, such as eating a healthy diet. You may try avoiding polluted areas.  Regular activity and exercise are sometimes prescribed.

Medicine can both treat current symptoms and prevent further symptoms. In severe cases, oxygen masks can be used in your home or at the hospital.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program to help you manage your symptoms, work on breathing, and improve your overall health. A team of doctors provide all the information you need to know to help you treat your disease in this program.

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