COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a chronic, ongoing, progressive disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. The hallmark of the disease is difficulty with breathing that slowly gets worse over time. COPD is a seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications and is often eventually fatal. COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
COPD is usually the result of a combination of two conditions, emphysema and chronic obstructive bronchitis. Most people who have COPD have both conditions.
COPD develops most often as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of irritants into the lungs, such as such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust. It is also recommended to avoid long-term exposure to second hand smoke. The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke or irritants, the higher the risk for developing COPD. The disease is usually diagnosed in middle-age or elderly people, but it can happen younger in life.
In healthy lungs, air and oxygen pass through the upper respiratory tract and into the bronchioles and the alveoli in the lungs. The alveoli are tiny hollow sack-like structures where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. However, long-term inhalation of smoke or other irritants results in a loss of elasticity in the bronchioles and alveoli, destruction of the walls between alveoli, and swelling and inflammation. There is also an abnormally large amount of mucus production, which can block airways.
The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, a loose cough that produces large amount of mucus, and chest tightness. Complications of COPD can be serious, even life threatening, and result in additional symptoms. For more details on symptoms, refer to symptoms of COPD.
Making a diagnosis of COPD begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, smoking history and exposure to lung irritants. A physical examination is also performed and includes listening with a stethoscope to the sounds that lungs make during respiration. Lung sounds that may point to a diagnosis of COPD include wheezing and decreased lung sounds.
Diagnostic testing can include lung function tests, such as a spirometry, which measures how much air is moved in and out of the lungs. A chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest can evaluate such factors as the presence of other conditions that may occur with or worsen COPD, such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure. An arterial blood gas tests a sample of blood taken from an artery for many parameters of effective breathing, including the oxygen level in the blood.
It is possible that a diagnosis of COPD can be missed or delayed because the disease progresses gradually. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of COPD.
There is no cure for COPD. The damage done to the airways in the lungs by smoke or other irritants is permanent and is not reversible. However, with regular medical care and consistent patient compliance with treatments and lifestyle changes, the symptoms of COPD can be minimized and progression of the disease can be slowed. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of COPD. ...more »
COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a chronic, ongoing, progressive disease of the lower respiratory tract in the lungs. The hallmark of the disease is difficulty with breathing that slowly gets worse over time. COPD is a seriously disabling disease with the potential for major complications and is often eventually fatal. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
The disease develops most often as a result of smoking, but can also occur from long-term inhalation of other irritants into the lungs. COPD develops when irritants are breathed into the respiratory tract into the bronchioles, small hollow passageways that branch off the main airway from the mouth and nose. Normally, air and needed oxygen pass through the bronchioles and into the alveoli, tiny hollow sack-like structures in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed in to the bloodstream. When air is mixed with smoke or irritants, it can damage the lungs and their ability to take in enough oxygen. Long-term inhalation of irritants results in a loss of elasticity in the bronchioles and alveoli, destruction of the walls between alveoli, and swelling and inflammation of the airways. There is also an abnormally large amount of mucus production, which can block airways. The longer the lungs are exposed to smoke or irritants, the more likely it is that you will develop COPD. COPD is usually diagnosed in middle-age or elderly people, but it can happen younger in life. ...more »
The severity of symptoms of COPD varies between individuals and the amount of lung damage that has been done. Symptoms are related to the lower levels of oxygen in the blood that is the result of lung damage due to COPD.
Typical symptoms include shortness of breath, especially with exertion, an ongoing loose cough that produces large amount of mucus ...more symptoms »
The goal of treatment for COPD is to control symptoms to a degree that allows people with the disease to breathe easier and live as normally and actively as possible for as long as possible.
The key treatment and prevention for COPD is to quit smoking. It is also important to eliminate or minimize exposure to potential lung irritants that can lead to or worsen COPD. These include air pollution, ...more treatments »
A diagnosis of COPD may be delayed or missed because the symptoms of COPD generally develop slowly over years and may not be noticed initially. Some symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and pallor, can be vague and attributed to other conditions as such as aging. Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and chest pain as similar to symptoms for such ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of COPD
- Early symptoms - not many symptoms for sometimes 10 years after smoking started
- more symptoms...»
See full list of 26
symptoms of COPD
Treatments for COPD
See full list of 65
treatments for COPD
Home Diagnostic Testing
Home medical testing related to COPD:
- Smoking-Related Disorders: Home Testing:
- Allergies -- Related Home Tests
Wrongly Diagnosed with COPD?
COPD: Related Patient Stories
Read more about Deaths and COPD.
Types of COPD
Read more about Types of COPD
Curable Types of COPD
Possibly curable types of COPD include:
- Smoking induced COPD
- Occupational exposure induced COPD
- Air pollution induced COPD
- more types...»
Rare Types of COPD:
Rare types of COPD include:
Diagnostic Tests for COPD
- Lung function tests
- Spirometer (lung function test)
- Forced vital capacity (FVC) lung test
- Residual volume (RV) lung test
- Total lung capacity (TLC) lung test
- more tests...»
See full list of 8
diagnostic tests for COPD
Review possible medical complications related to COPD:
Causes of COPD
Read more about causes of COPD
More information about causes of COPD:
Disease Topics Related To COPD
Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, COPD:
COPD: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and COPD
Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis,
when the condition is really a harmless complication of another...read more »
Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been
immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears
off after about 15...read more »
Alzheimer's disease over-diagnosed: The well-known disease of Alzheimer's disease
is often over-diagnosed.
Patients tend to assume that any memory loss or...read more »
Dementia may be a drug interaction: A common scenario in aged care is for
a patient to show mental decline to dementia.
Whereas this can, of course, occur due to various medical conditions,
such as a stroke or Alzheimer...read more »
Tremor need not be Parkinson's disease: There is the tendency to believe that
any tremor symptom, or shakiness, means Parkinson's disease.
The reality is that there are various possibilities, such as benign essential tremor,
which is...read more »
Rare diseases misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease: A rare genetic
disorder is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease for men in their 50's.
The disease Fragile X disorder can show only mild symptoms in the early years,
and...read more »
Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases
are difficult to diagnose.
Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail to be diagnosed early.
Some of the chronic...read more »
Misdiagnosed weight-related causes of infertility: A woman's weight status
can affect her level of fertility.
Although obesity or overweight can in themselves reduce fertility, there are other
weight-related or associated medical...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and COPD
COPD: Research Doctors & Specialists
Research related physicians and medical specialists:
- Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists:
- Lung Health Specialists (Pulmonologist):
- Senior Health Specialists (Geriatrics):
- more specialists...»
Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:
Hospitals & Clinics: COPD
Research quality ratings and patient safety measures
for medical facilities in specialties related to COPD:
Hospital & Clinic quality ratings »
Choosing the Best Hospital:
More general information, not necessarily in relation to COPD,
on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
COPD: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
Latest Treatments for COPD
See full list of 15
latest treatments for COPD
More COPD animations & videos
Prognosis for COPD
Prognosis for COPD:
Variable. Good prognosis depends on early diagnosis (i.e. on extent of lung damage).
More about prognosis of COPD
Research about COPD
Visit our research pages for current research about COPD treatments.
Clinical Trials for COPD
The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally
and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for COPD include:
See full list of 292
Clinical Trials for COPD
Prevention of COPD
Prevention information for COPD has been compiled from various data sources
and may be inaccurate or incomplete.
None of these methods guarantee prevention of COPD.
Read more about prevention of COPD
Statistics for COPD
COPD: Broader Related Topics
Types of COPD
User Interactive Forums
Read about other experiences, ask a question about COPD, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:
Article Excerpts about COPD
pulmonary disease (COPD), also called chronic obstructive lung disease, is a
term that is used for two closely related diseases of the respiratory system:
chronic bronchitis and emphysema. In many patients these diseases occur
together, although there may be more symptoms of one than the other. Most
patients with these diseases have a long history of heavy cigarette smoking.
(Source: excerpt from What is COPD: NHLBI)
Definitions of COPD:
Chronic, irreversible obstruction of air flow from the lungs.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
A nonreversible lung disease that is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis; usually patients have been heavy cigarette smokers
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
Contents for COPD:
User Surveys and Discussion Forums
» Next page: What is COPD?
Medical Tools & Articles:
Tools & Services:
Forums & Message Boards
- Ask or answer a question at the Boards: