Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the term used to describe chronic lung conditions that cause severe shortness of breath and block the airways in your lungs. Usually it refers to long-lasting bronchitis or emphysema. But it can also include asthmatic bronchitis (bronchial asthma). All of these diseases cause the air sacs and tubes in the lungs to become blocked.

With chronic bronchitis, a constant cough that produces mucus causes bronchial tubes to become inflamed. Eventually, scar tissue forms in the lungs, which doesn't allow your lungs to take in as much oxygen as you need. With emphysema, the walls of your lungs lose their elasticity, meaning they can't constrict to allow for exhaling. People with COPD can have either or both of these diseases.

The main risk factor for COPD is smoking. There is no cure for COPD. While treatments may help control symptoms, they can't undo the damage to the lungs. The most important thing you can do to prevent COPD, or to stop the damage from getting worse if you have it, is to stop smoking.

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Review Date: 9/29/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M Editorial team.

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