Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. It's characterized by daily cough and mucus (sputum) production. Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) of the lungs are destroyed as a result of damaging exposure to cigarette smoke and other irritating gases and particulate matter. Symptoms usually get worse over time.
COPD can cause many complications, including:
- Respiratory infections.
- Heart problems.
- Lung cancer.
- High blood pressure in lung arteries.
Smoking is the most common cause. Other causes are secondhand smoke and air pollution.
- The most significant risk factor for COPD is long-term cigarette smoking. The more years you smoke and the more packs you smoke, the greater your risk. Pipe smokers, cigar smokers and marijuana smokers also may be at risk, as well as people exposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke.
- Occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and how long you have had them. He may have you get a chest x-ray or blood work. He may refer you for one or more tests, including lung function tests or chest CT scan.
COPD has no cure yet. Your doctor might recommend one or more treatments to improve and control your symptoms, including short- or long-acting inhalers, steroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, or oxygen therapy.
If your doctor prescribes medications, take them as prescribed even if you don’t feel bad.
Managing Your Condition
Lifestyle changes may help control your symptoms but be sure to check with your doctor before you make any changes.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise and use breathing techniques.
- Get flu and pneumococcal vaccines.