COPD includes chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. When we breathe in, oxygen gets into the body. When we breathe out, we get rid of carbon dioxide. Obstruction in COPD means that flow of air when we breathe in and out is less than it should be. As the disease gets worse it gets harder to stay active when you are short of breath.
Chronic bronchitis causes the breathing tubes that carry air into the lungs to get swollen and make a lot of mucus. The mucus can block the airways. This makes it very hard to breathe. Coughing helps bring up the mucus.
Emphysema makes the walls of the air sacs in our lungs break down. These sacs can’t stretch and less air goes in and out of the lungs. This makes it difficult to breath and makes you feel short of breath.
COPD gets worse over time. You can’t undo the damage to your lungs. There is no cure for this disease.
COPD is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States according to the American Lung Association. More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD. Many more people have it and don’t know.
COPD develops slowly. It is often not found until the disease is very advanced. People just think they are short of breath or less able to do things they used to do because of age. Severe COPD can prevent you from doing even very basic activities like walking, cooking or taking care of yourself.
Most of the time COPD is diagnosed in middle age. The disease is not passed from one person to another. You can’t catch it from someone else.
The good news is that the disease can be found early. With early detection the disease can be treated. Treatments and lifestyle changes can help you feel better, stay active and slow down the disease.
Need more information or help managing your disease?
Talk with a Nurse Case Manager.