Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a group of progressive lung diseases. The most common are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many people with COPD have both of these conditions.
Emphysema slowly destroys air sacs in your lungs, which interferes with outward air flow. Bronchitis causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which allows mucus to build up.
The top cause of COPD is tobacco smoking. Long-term exposure to chemical irritants can also lead to COPD. It’s a disease that usually takes a long time to develop.
Diagnosis usually involves imaging tests, blood tests, and lung function tests.
There’s no cure for COPD, but treatment can help ease symptoms, lower the chance of complications, and generally improve quality of life. Medications, supplemental oxygen therapy, and surgery are some forms of treatment.
Untreated, COPD can lead to a faster progression of disease, heart problems, and worsening respiratory infections.
It’s estimated that about 30 million people in the United States have COPD. As many as half are unaware that they have it.
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