Short of breath? You may have COPD.
Some people ignore their symptoms, thinking they are just a part of the aging process. But shortness of breath is never normal, and it deserves the attention of a doctor. If you have a chronic cough, and often experience shortness of breath, you may have a lung disorder called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Chronic means this disease lasts a long time and is always present. You can control it, but it is not going away.
Obstructive means the airways are blocked. This happens because of swelling or extra mucus in the airways.
Pulmonary means the lungs.
Disease refers to the damage that has happened in the lungs.
Some 12 million Americans have COPD, according to the American Lung Association. Another 24 million may have the disease, but have not yet been diagnosed. For a digital version of our Living Well with COPD guide or to download and print, click here.
There are two forms of COPD: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both facets of the disease are serious, because they mean your lungs can’t get enough oxygen into your body to sustain the good health of your heart and other major organs.
Symptoms of COPD
- Chronic cough
- Increased mucus production
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
- A feeling of tightness in the chest
Living with COPD
Although COPD is a serious illness it can be controlled with good health habits, diet, breathing exercises, and changes in your environment.
Causes of COPD
In nearly 90 percent of all cases, COPD is caused by smoking. People who inhale irritating fumes, dusts or mists at work are also at risk. In a handful of cases, COPD is inherited.
- Cigarette smoking
- Lung infection
- Family genes
- Second hand smoke
- Jobs with dust or fumes
- Air pollution
Things You Can Do to Live Well with COPD
COPD can't be cured, but you can take steps to keep your symptoms under control and slow the disease’s progress:
- Take your medicine
- Do not smoke
- Clear your mucus
- Save energy and breathe easy
- Practice good hygiene
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- Avoid sick people
- Avoid dust and strong smell
When diagnosing COPD, your doctor may ask you to blow into a machine that measures how deeply you can breathe. You may also need to get a blood test or chest X-ray.
About Your Medicines
COPD can be controlled with medicine. Your doctor will decide what works best for you. Medications will help relieve your symptoms. Always take your medicine exactly as ordered.
- Take each of your medicines, every day, at the right times.
- Do not skip doses of your medicines, even when you feel good.
- If you think you are having side eects from your medicines, don’t stop taking them. Talk to your doctor right away.
- If you are having trouble paying for your medicine, talk to your doctor.
If you suspect you have COPD, make an appointment with your doctor. Early treatment of COPD will prevent further damage to your lungs, and it will give you the tools you need to maintain a high quality of life.
Need a doctor? Visit the Find A Doctor section of our website or find one with Lakeland Health’s 24-hour referral service at (800) 303-8399