COPD: What You Need to Know to Breathe Easy

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COPD: What You Need to Know to Breathe Easy

Did you know that over 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)?


Knowing the signs and symptoms of COPD can help you and your loved ones take steps to reduce your risk of developing it. And if you or a loved one have been diagnosed, knowing the facts can help you manage symptoms and live better. 


What is COPD? 

COPD, also referred to as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is a condition in which the airways of a person’s lungs thicken and become inflamed, making it harder for oxygen to reach body tissue. COPD is preventable, since it is usually caused by exposure to aerosolized irritants, such as smoking or air pollution, over a long period of time. 


How is it diagnosed?

Like many other preventable conditions, early detection is key for successful treatment of COPD. The most common symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath when doing everyday activities, a lingering cough, and wheezing. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk your doctor right away.  

If your doctor suspects COPD, they’ll perform a breathing test called spirometry. During the test, a clip is placed on your nose while you breathe into a plastic mouthpiece connected to the spirometry machine to measure how much air you can breathe in and out of your lungs and how quickly and easily you are able to do so. 


How is it managed?

If you are diagnosed with COPD, it is important to know that although the disease is not curable, it is manageable.  

Your health care team can develop a management plan for you, which should include:

  • instructions on when to go to the emergency room

  • when and how to take your medications

  • how to keep track of any changes in symptoms

  • any breathing exercises your doctor may recommend 

The right lifestyle changes and support may help you breathe better, have fewer flare-ups, and do more of what you enjoy.  

Learn more about COPD at



References: Basics About COPD | CDC


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