What exactly is COPD?
COPD is a lung disease that can limit your airflow. When some people hear “COPD,” they’re not sure what to think. It may be confusing because Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is only one of a group of closely related chronic lung diseases. COPD may include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both.
Chronic bronchitis is the production of increased mucus caused by inflammation. Bronchitis is considered chronic if you cough and produce excess mucus most days for three months in a year, two years in a row. Emphysema is a disease that damages the air sacs and/or the smallest breathing tubes in the lungs.
Common day-to-day COPD symptoms include a cough, coughing up mucus or phlegm, difficult breathing and shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. There’s no denying that COPD can be a serious disease, but you don’t have to settle for a life defined by it. You might have to pace yourself differently day to day. Our site is full of information that will help get you started.
“It’s just smoker’s cough…”
Some people may think they simply have a “smoker’s cough” or that breathlessness is just a part of getting older. It may be nothing serious or it may be an early symptom of COPD. Either way, it’s a good idea to get these symptoms checked out. By the time many patients are diagnosed with COPD, they have lost some of their lung function. The earlier COPD is diagnosed, the sooner you and your doctor can start managing it.
The effects of COPD on healthy lungs
Healthy airways and air sacs in the lungs are elastic, making it easy for air to move in and out quickly. Chronic inflammation, as can be caused by exposure to smoke, can cause the lungs to thicken and lose their elasticity. Then the airways can’t widen when you need more air, and thick mucus forms. This typically causes coughing, which may be associated with mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.