Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that gets worse over time. It makes it hard to move air in and out of the lungs. Forms of COPD include:
- Emphysema—air sacs of the lungs are damaged
- Chronic bronchitis—airways of the lungs are damaged
These diseases often happen together. The causes and treatment are alike.
|Normal Lung and Lung with Emphysema|
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Early problems are:
- Coughing up mucus from deep in the lungs
- Shortness of breath with activity
As the disease gets worse, problems may be:
- Shortness of breath that gets worse
- A choking feeling when lying flat
- Feeling very tired
- Problems with focus
- Weight loss
- Breathing through pursed lips
- Leaning forward to breathe better
- Flare-ups of these symptoms
There is no cure for COPD. It will get worse over time. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and improve quality of life. A plan will be made with the care team.
A pulmonary rehabilitation program can be helpful. It offers education and tips to stay healthy. Other treatments are:
Smoking will worsen COPD. There are a number of tools to help quit smoking, such as:
- Behavior change programs
- Nicotine replacement therapy, such as gum, patches, or sprays
Medicine may be given to:
- Relax and open the airways
- Decrease swelling and mucus
- Treat flare ups
COPD increases the risk of problems from flu and pneumonia. Pneumonia and the flu vaccines are both recommended for people with COPD.
COPD makes it hard for oxygen to pass through the lungs and into the body. Oxygen therapy can increase the amount of oxygen that gets into the lungs and into the body. It can also ease breathing and improve energy.
Being overweight can make it harder to breathe. A weight loss plan may be needed.
Some find it hard to eat well with COPD. It can lead to unhealthy weight loss. Nutrition support may help.
Surgery or Procedures
Some people may need procedures or surgery to help the lungs work better. Options are:
- Bronchoscopic lung reduction—a procedure to block off parts of the lung.
- Lung volume reduction surgery—removing a section of the lung to let other parts of it expand
- Lung transplant—replaces a damaged lung with a donor lung
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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American Lung Association http://www.lung.org
National Lung Health Education Program http://www.nlhep.org
COPD. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/copd. Accessed January 9, 2021.
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of COPD. GOLD 2019.
Living with COPD. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd. Accessed January 9, 2021.