Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD, is a chronic lung condition in which inflammation reduces airflow. Patients have difficulty breathing and may also experience wheezing, cough, and increased sputum (mucus) production. COPD also increases your risk of developing several conditions, including heart disease and lung cancer.
Common Causes of COPD
The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Long-term exposure to noxious or irritating gases and particulate matter is the disease’s greatest risk factor. Certain conditions may also contribute to COPD, particularly chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Symptoms of these conditions mimic those of COPD. And, smoking is the greatest risk factor for developing emphysema.
Although smoking is the most common cause, long-term exposure to pollution, dust, and fumes may also lead to a diagnosis of COPD. A small number of patients – around 1 percent – have a genetic disorder that may cause lung damage beginning in infancy.
The best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke. If you do smoke, work with your doctor to develop a plan to quit smoking.
If your work exposes you to dangerous chemicals, dust, or fumes, talk to your employer about wearing respiratory protective equipment.
If you have COPD, you can manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of developing related conditions, including respiratory infections, heart problems, depression, and lung cancer. If you think you might have COPD, or you know you’re at risk for it, make an appointment with your healthcare provider today. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment.