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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a desease of the lungs that makes it hard for one to breathe. It is also a progressive disease, "Progressive" means the disease gets worse as time passes.
Coughing up mucus is often the first sign of COPD. Chronicbronchitisand emphysemaare common COPDs. The signs of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms. are indications od COPD or beginig of the disease.
Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Breathing in other kinds of irritants, like pollution, dust or chemicals, may also cause or contribute to COPD.Quitting smokingis the best way to avoid developing COPD.
Air get in to lungs through small tubes called bronchial tubes or airways. Your airways branch out inside your lungs like an upside-down tree. Within the lungs, your bronchial tubes branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles. These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air sacs called alveoli (al-VEE-uhl-eye). In healthy people, both the airways and air sacs are springy and elastic. When you breathe in, each air sac fills with air like a small balloon. The balloon deflates when you exhale. Small blood vessels called capillaries run through the walls of the air sacs. When air reaches the air sacs, the oxygen in the air passes through the air sac walls into the blood in the capillaries. At the same time, carbon dioxide (a waste gas) moves from the capillaries into the air sacs. This process is called gas exchange.
If you have COPD, your airways and air sacs lose their shape and become floppy, like a stretched-out rubber band. The gas exchange become less and less as the disease progresses.
In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways because of one or more of the following:
The airways and air sacs lose their elastic quality.
The walls between many of the air sacs are destroyed.
The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
The airways make more mucus than usual, which tends to clog them.
COPD is a major cause of disability, and it's the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD. Many more people may have the disease and not even know it.
Treatment can make you more comfortable, but there is no cure. However, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.
NIH NHLBI: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute