Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
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:
These diseases often happen together. The causes and treatment are alike.
COPD is caused by damage to the lungs from:
Things that raise your chance of COPD are:
Early problems are:
As the disease gets worse, problems may be:
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on your breathing. This may be enough to make the diagnosis.
Lung function tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done with spirometry to test the force of your breath.
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:
Medicine may be given to:
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:
The risk of COPD can be lowered by:
American Lung Association
National Lung Health Education Program
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.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 1/18/2021