Understanding Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term that refers to a group of lung diseases that can interfere with normal breathing.

Different Types of COPD

The two most common conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis means long-term inflammation of the bronchi (the breathing passages in the lungs), which results in increased production of mucus, as well as other changes.

These changes may result in breathing problems, frequent infections, cough and disability.

Pulmonary Emphysema

Emphysema is a chronic lung condition in which alveoli (the air sacs in the lungs) may become narrowed, collapsed, stretched, overinflated or destroyed.

This can cause a decrease in respiratory function and breathlessness. Damage to the air sacs is irreversible and results in permanent "holes" in the lung tissue.

The Causes of COPD

The causes of COPD are not fully known. Most think that the most important cause of chronic bronchitis and emphysema is cigarette smoking. Other causes such as air pollution and occupational exposures may play a role. Family history may also be a factor.

Live More Comfortably with COPD

Treatment helps people with COPD live more comfortably by improving endurance, relieving symptoms and stopping the disease from getting worse. To reach these goals, COPD rehabilitation programs may include:

  • Medication
  • Exercises
  • Respiratory treatments to improve breathing ability
  • Assistance with obtaining respiratory equipment and portable oxygen
  • Methods to increase independence with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Stress management
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Emotional support
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Nutritional counseling