Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus (sputum) production, and wheezing. COPD causes strain on and enlargement of your heart and increased blood pressure in your lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
Additional Symptoms of COPD:
- Shortness of breath, trouble breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Blue-purple color of the skin (cyanosis), especially of the hands, feet, and lips
- Weight loss
- Frequent lung infections
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
How Does It Happen?
There are 2 main types of COPD: chronic bronchitis (inflamed airways) and emphysema (damage to the lung tissue). Chronic bronchitis and emphysema result from irritation of your airways over a long time, usually from smoking and sometimes from air pollution. Other causes are on-the-job exposure to irritants such as dust or chemicals, or frequent lung infections.
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema can occur separately but often they develop together. In chronic bronchitis, the insides of the airways thicken and swell. This makes the passageway for air inside the airways smaller. The damaged airways make more mucus, which can block the airways and make it hard to breathe. In emphysema, the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs may become badly damaged or destroyed and lose their ability to stretch (get bigger and smaller). This makes it harder for you to breathe out carbon dioxide after breathing in air. As the carbon dioxide collects in your lungs, there is less room for oxygen to be breathed in.
How is it treated?
- Relieve symptoms to help you breathe better and feel better
- Help you be more physically active
- Treat infections when they happen
- Help prevent complications
- Help prevent the condition from getting worse
85% of COPD cases are caused by tobacco smoke. This includes the smokers themselves and people who are exposed to secondhand smoke. In most cases, you can prevent COPD by never smoking and not being around others who are smoking.