Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

(COPD)

Definition

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 2 diseases. However, they often occur together. The causes and treatment of each condition are similar.
Normal and Emphysemic Lung
Normal Lung and Emphysemic Lung
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

COPD is caused by damage to the lungs. This damage is caused by:
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Inhaling toxins or other irritants
  • Genetic predisposition that makes the lungs more vulnerable to damage from smoke or pollutants—includes alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency

Risk Factors

COPD is more common in adults who are older than 40 years old. Factors that increase your chance of developing COPD include:
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Long-term exposure to secondhand or passive smoke (in any form)
  • Family members with COPD
  • Exposure to pollutants
  • History of frequent childhood lung infections
  • Smoking unusual forms of tobacco, such as Chinese waterpipes

Symptoms

Early symptoms of COPD include:
  • Coughing
  • Increased sputum production—mucus from deep in the lungs
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath with activity
As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Choking sensation when lying flat
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Weight loss
  • Breathing through pursed lips
  • Desire to lean forward to improve breathing
  • Periods of more severe symptoms

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