Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive (gets worse with time) condition that causes inflammation in the lungs. The inflammation results in damaged lung tissue and air becomes trapped in the lungs. Individuals with COPD have a harder time exhaling (breathing out) and the lungs become overinflated resulting in shortness of breath. The inflammation also causes narrowing of airways, mucous collection in your airways, and damages the air sacs in your lungs causing carbon dioxide to build up in your body.
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, cough with mucous production, wheezing and chest tightness. As COPD gets worse, weight loss, weakness and fatigue can occur.
COPD is diagnosed with a breathing test called Spirometry. Other testing to help diagnose and treat COPD includes chest x-ray, oxygen levels (done by placing a probe on your finger or by blood test) and sometimes testing for Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (an inherited form of COPD).
COPD is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States and treatment begins with prevention. Individuals who smoke are at greater risk of developing COPD and the risk increases with the amount an individual smokes. Stopping smoking can slow the progression of COPD, but no cure exists for the disease. Other treatments include inhaled medication (including steroids), oxygen therapy, antibiotics for infection and preventing other lung conditions through vaccination and health maintenance.