Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that makes it hard to breathe. Although there is no cure, treatment can improve quality of life.
To understand COPD, it may help to break down its name.
Chronic means long-lasting. COPD is progressive--it gets worse over time.
Obstructive refers to the fact that airflow is obstructed--air can't move freely in and out of the lungs. Obstruction may be from chronic bronchitis (swelling and excess phlegm in the airways), emphysema (damage to lung tissue), or both.
Pulmonary disease means disease of the lungs. Pulmo is Latin for lung.
COPD can be life-threatening--it's a leading cause of death in the United States.
Signs and symptoms of the disease include:
• Shortness of breath--especially during physical activity.
• A cough that doesn't go away or that produces a lot of mucus.
• Wheezing (a whistling or squeaking sound when breathing).
Early on, COPD may not cause symptoms.
Between 85 to 90 percent of COPD cases are caused by smoking. Other risk factors include genetics and exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants.
For smokers, the most important treatment is to quit smoking.
Other treatments include:
• Medicines, such as bronchodilators and steroids.
• Pulmonary rehabilitation, a program that may include exercise training and nutritional and psychological counseling.
• Supplemental oxygen.
In some cases, surgery or lung transplantation may be necessary.
Watson Clinic’s team of pulmonologists specializes in the treatment of COPD and other pulmonary disorders. Call 863-680-7190 for more information and to schedule an appointment.
Sources: American Lung Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institutes of Health