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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Overview

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term that is used for progressive lung diseases. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are common types of COPD. These diseases make it hard for you to breathe, and coughing up mucus is often one of the first signs of COPD.

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, so quitting smoking is the best way to avoid developing COPD. 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.

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

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.

COPD Foundation
The COPD Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding services and improving the lives of individuals affected by COPD. The site has information about COPD, ways to get involved, research studies, an online COPD community, and more.

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

Quit Tobacco Program, Health District of Northern Larimer County
Are you ready to quit tobacco? Whether you smoke or use chew, the Health District's Quit 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.

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