Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is also called COPD. It is a serious lung illness which causes problems with breathing. There are many subtypes of COPD, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Symptoms of COPD
Symptoms of COPD include the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chronic cough
- Mucous production when coughing
- Difficulty doing activities that used to be more manageable, due to shortness of breath
- Weight changes
Some things may cause your COPD to get worse. They can also make you more likely to have problems from COPD. These are called risk factors. You can lower your risk for developing COPD, your COPD worsening or needing to be hospitalized for a COPD flare, by avoiding these risk factors. Try to:
- Avoid smoke from tobacco:
- Stop smoking. This is one of the most important things you can do to lower your risk of getting COPD, and if you have COPD, to prevent it from getting severe. Talk to your doctor if you need finding resources to quit. Quitting can be challenging, and you are not alone!
- Stay away from places where others are smoking or have smoked. This will limit your exposure to secondhand or thirdhand smoke.
- Limit breathing in fumes, dust, pollution, and chemicals.
- Wear a mask when around any fumes or dust to filter the air you breathe. We recognize that many patients have to be around chemicals and fumes during their jobs or at home. As best as you can, try to work with the proper protective equipment to limit your inhalation of these.
- Keep your home clean and free of dust as much as possible.
- Avoid infections. Protecting yourself from infections can lower your risk of developing a COPD flare.
- Get a flu shot each year.
- Talk to your doctor about a shot for pneumonia.
- Wash your hands often.
- Whenever possible, avoid crowded areas or close contact with other people who are sick, especially during winter months.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
- Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet and keeping a normal weight.
- Exercise regularly. Moderate regular exercise may reduce the risk of COPD if you are smoking. Talk with your doctor about the best exercises for you.
- If you have asthma, avoid known triggers. Patients with asthma can be at higher risk of developing COPD later in life.
- If you have COPD, take your inhalers as prescribed.
What medications may be needed to treat my COPD?
You may be given the following:
- Steroids: these medications can reduce decline in lung function.
- Inhalers: these medications can make it easier to breathe by opening up your airways. Depending on how severe your COPD is, you may be asked by your doctor to take these medications only as needed, or scheduled.
- Antibiotics: if you have an infection or a flare of your COPD.
Where can I learn more?
American Lung Association