CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that makes it hard to breathe, because the airways that carry
air in and out of your lungs become narrow and partially blocked.
COPD is a common lung disease that affects many people. In fact, over 12 million people in the U.S.
have been diagnosed with COPD, and approximately 12 million more have the disease but don’t even know it.
Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. However, a number of other factors, such as excessively breathing
in pollution, dust, or chemicals and smoke in the air, can also cause COPD. For advice on quitting smoking, check out the
Helpful Resources section.
What are chronic bronchitis and emphysema?
People with COPD have chronic bronchitis and/or emphysema. With chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways in your lungs
becomes inflamed and produces extra-thick mucus, as in the image below. This mucus can clog the airways, causing persistent
coughing and difficulty breathing.
With emphysema, the lining of the tiny air sacs at the end of the airways in your lungs becomes damaged and less flexible,
as in the image below. Since these air sacs fill up with air when you breathe in and deflate when you breathe out, the
ability of air to move in and out of your lungs becomes limited when the sacs are damaged. Some air may get trapped in your
airways, and as a result, you may feel as though you can't catch your breath.
The first step in understanding COPD is
Knowing the Symptoms