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Health Journey Support | What is COPD?

COPD is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In COPD, less air flows in and out of your lungs. This brochure describes two conditions that can reduce airflow in COPD.

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FOR PATIENTS/CAREGIVERS

What Is Copd Br

What is COPD?

COPD is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Maybe you've had trouble breathing but thought it was just from getting older. Or maybe you knew something was wrong because you have had trouble breathing for a while. You might have been coughing a lot and feeling very tired.

But there is good news: you might not be able to get rid of your COPD, but you may be able to slow down its symptoms or stop it from getting worse.

To help control your COPD, you need to understand what it is. In COPD, less air flows in and out of your lungs. This happens because:

  • Airways and air sacs lose their ability to stretch

  • Walls between some air sacs are destroyed

  • Walls of the airways become thick and inflamed

  • Airways make more mucus than usual, clogging themselves

Reduced airflow in COPD is caused by a mixture of:

  • Emphysema, where the walls of the air sacs in the lungs are damaged and lose their elasticity. The walls of the air sacs are destroyed leading to few and larger air sacs reducing the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchanged in the lungs

  • Chronic bronchitis, where the lining inside the airways is irritated and inflamed. This causes the lining to become thick, which creates excess mucus, making it hard to breathe

COPD by the numbers

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. About 12 million Americans have been told they have COPD. Twelve million more people probably have COPD, but they don't know it. Severe COPD can get in the way of doing even the most basic tasks, such as light housekeeping, taking a walk, bathing, and getting dressed.

Risk factors for COPD are most common in people who are:

  • Current or former cigarette, pipe, cigar, water pipe, or marijuana smokers
  • Smoke from home cooking/heating fuels
  • Occupational dusts, vapors, fumes, gases, or chemicals
  • Genetic factors
  • Diagnosed with asthma as a child

Yes, COPD is a serious disease. But with the right treatment and a healthier lifestyle, you can help keep it from getting worse.