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 two 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 "exotic" 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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