What is COPD and what causes it? (Definition)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs which restricts a person’s ability to breathe normally. COPD is actually a term used to describe a group of progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common COPD conditions. Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli at the end of the smallest air passages (bronchioles) of the lungs are destroyed.
COPD is a common disease which affects millions of Americans. It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The disease is often brought on through long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. Fumes, chemicals and dust found in many work environments are also known to be contributing factors. In some cases, genetics can also play a role in an individual’s development of COPD—even if the person has never smoked or has ever been exposed to strong lung irritants in the workplace.
People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions.
COPD is often preventable and treatable and with proper management, most people with COPD can achieve good symptom control and quality of life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic lower respiratory disease, primarily COPD, was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2014. Almost 15.7 million Americans (6.4%) reported that they have been diagnosed with COPD. More than 50% of adults with low pulmonary function were not aware that they had COPD, so the actual number may be higher.
Symptoms of COPD often don’t appear until significant lung damage has occurred. COPD can develop for years without noticeable shortness of breath. Many people don’t recognize the symptoms of COPD until later stages of the disease, or they mistake their increased breathlessness and coughing as a normal part of aging.
Signs and symptoms of COPD may include frequent coughing with and without mucus or sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish, wheezing, chronic cough, increased breathlessness or shortness of breath while doing everyday activities (dyspnea), tightness in the chest, frequent respiratory infections, fatigue, and blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis).
It is important to know that early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is key to successful treatment. If you feel you may be at risk or are experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor.
For more information about COPD, including recommended treatments, please visit the CDC website.
See below for updated news and information regarding COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease including new medical research advancements, as well as treatment options and guidelines.
Latest COPD News
COPD NEWS: No Benefit Reported for Supplemental Oxygen Treatment in COPD Patients with Moderately Low Blood Oxygen Levels