Debra Wood, RN
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
is a long-term lung disease. COPD makes it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. It will make breathing difficult. COPD includes:
The changes to lung tissue differ with the two diseases. However, they often occur together. The causes and treatment of each condition are similar.
COPD is caused by damage to the lungs. This damage is caused by:
Factors that increase your chance of developing COPD include:
Early symptoms of COPD include:
As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor will need to test how impaired your lungs are. This may be done with:
Your doctor may also need detailed pictures of your lungs. This may be done with:
There is no cure for COPD. Treatment aims to ease symptoms and improve quality of life.
smoking slows the disease. It is the most important part of treatment. There are many programs to help you quit, including:
Limit the number of irritants in the air you breathe. It may help make breathing easier. Avoid smoke, dust, smog, extreme heat or cold, and high altitudes.
Medication for COPD may help by:
Some medication may be taken as pills or liquids. Others are inhaled medications that are delivered directly to the lungs.
The flu and pneumonia can make your symptoms worse. Get vaccinated against
flu. The flu vaccine may also reduce COPD flare-ups.
Oxygen therapy may be helpful if the oxygen levels in your blood are too low. It can relieve trouble breathing and improve energy. You may only need it for specific activities. It could also be given throughout the day.
Special exercises can strengthen chest muscles. This can make it easier to breathe.
Regular physical activity can reduce the workload on your lungs. It helps build their endurance. Physical activity is also associated with improved quality of life.
Follow your doctor's recommendations for activity levels and restrictions.
Special methods of breathing can help bring more air into your lungs. It can also help force trapped air out of your lungs. Effective coughing techniques can help clear mucus from your lungs. Ask your doctor if these techniques can help you. Some examples include:
Eating habits to consider with COPD:
The following may help you manage COPD symptoms and avoid flare-ups:
A small number of patients may benefit from surgery. Surgery options include removing a part of the lung. You could also have a lung transplant.
Take these steps to reduce your chance of developing COPD:
American Lung Association
National Lung Health Education Program
Canadian Lung Association
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National Lung Health Education Program website. Available at:
http://www.nlhep.org/. Accessed October 1, 2012.
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http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/. Accessed October 1, 2012.
What you can do about a lung disease called COPD. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease website. Available at:
http://www.goldcopd.org/uploads/users/files/GOLD_Patient_RevJan10.pdf. Accessed October 1, 2012.
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Last reviewed October 2012 by
Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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