COPD is an acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Most people with COPD have both conditions, but some COPD patients may have only one. COPD is a serious and chronic lung disease for which there is no cure; however, it can be managed with appropriate treatments and care.
The primary cause of COPD is smoking. Other possible causes include exposure to lung irritants including wood smoke, chemicals and pollutants, genetic issues affecting the lungs' structure or function, and premature birth.
Common symptoms of COPD include:
persistent cough that produces mucus
shortness of breath
tight feeling in the lungs or chest area
frequent respiratory infections
unintended weight loss
Flareups of the disease can also occur, especially during or following a respiratory infection or when exposed to smoke or other pollutants.
Diagnosis begins with a medical history and physical exam to evaluate your risk factors and your general health and to listen to your lungs. Your lung function will also be measured using a spirometry test. During the test, you'll wear nose clips and be asked to blow into a device called a spirometer. You may also have chest x-rays to rule out other conditions like lung cancer that can cause many similar symptoms.
Although there's no cure, COPD can be managed with lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and with medications to open your airways and to reduce inflammation and swelling in your lungs and airways. Depending on the extent of your disease, lung rehabilitation may be prescribed to enable you to stay active without becoming short of breath or overly tired. Oxygen therapy is usually prescribed in more advanced cases when your lungs are unable to provide your body with enough oxygen.
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