COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. More than 11 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and it is now the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Common signs and symptoms of COPD include:
- difficulty breathing, especially with exertion
- frequent cough, with or without mucus production
- chest tightness or heaviness
COPD is confirmed through a simple, non-invasive breathing test called spirometry, a type of pulmonary function test. This test can determine the severity of obstruction in the lungs and help guide treatment and monitor progression.
Although there is currently no cure for COPD, it is treatable with the use of inhaled medications, lifestyle modifications, flu and pneumonia vaccines, pulmonary rehabilitation and sometimes surgical interventions. It is important to establish care with a pulmonologist, or lung doctor, to develop a treatment plan.