Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) makes it hard for you to breathe. Coughing up mucus is often the first sign of COPD. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are common COPDs.

Your airways branch out inside your lungs like an upside-down tree. At the end of each branch are small, balloon-like air sacs. 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. In COPD, your airways and air sacs lose their shape and become floppy, like a stretched-out rubber band.

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 smoking is the best way to avoid developing COPD.

Treatment can make you more comfortable, but there is no cure.

Source: MedlinePlus

Note: This topic was prepared to help consumers find reliable health resources on the web. This site is not responsible for the information on other sites. The information here — and on all websites — is not intended to be a substitute for care given to you by a health professional.

Recommended Reading

COPD International
COPD International is a nonprofit organization that provides information and interactive support for COPD patients, caregivers, families and concerned individuals. The organization's website includes chat rooms, message boards, information on the "Quit Smoking Now" program and a reference area.

American Lung Association
The American Lung Association, the oldest voluntary health organization in the United States, is dedicated to preventing lung disease and promoting lung health. The website offers extensive information on COPD. Información en Español.

Understand and Reduce Your Risk for COPD

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Most people with COPD are smokers or former smokers. Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants — like pollution, dust or chemicals — over a long period of time may also cause or contribute to COPD.

Information About COPD, American Academy of Family Physicians
This site offers information on who gets COPD and symptoms of the disease. It also outlines tests you may undergo to see if your shortness of breath is COPD.

COPD, National Jewish Health
This site includes information on causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, lifestyle management, emotional management and other helpful topics relating to COPD.

Quit Smoking, American Lung Association
This website offers information about smoking and smoking cessation support, including fact sheets and action plans for quitting.

What Is COPD?, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
This entry on COPD includes information on what the disease is, how lungs work, what causes COPD, who is at risk, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and tips for living with it.

Local Resources

Step Free from Tobacco, Health District of Northern Larimer County
Are you ready to quit tobacco? Whether you smoke or use chew, the Health District's Step Free from Tobacco program can work for you. We have helped hundreds of local smokers quit through our straightforward approach.

University of Colorado Health
Information about many respiratory and lung disorders, including COPD.

Colorado COPD Coalition: Resource Directory
The Colorado COPD Directory, a project of the Colorado COPD Coalition hosted by the American Lung Association of Colorado, is a resource for people living with COPD, their families, caregivers and medical professionals across the state. The directory is divided into sections based on services offered.

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