November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. COPD is a chronic lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe and can cause severe coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.
As of 2019, COPD is the third leading cause of death worldwide and affects over 16 million adults. The good news is that COPD is both preventable and treatable. It’s never too late to begin taking care of your respiratory health.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
COPD often has no symptoms or only mild symptoms at first. However, symptoms become more severe as the disease gets worse. Common symptoms include:
- A chronic cough or a cough that produces a lot of mucus (also known as smoker's cough)
- Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
- Wheezing sound when breathing
- Chest tightness
What causes COPD?
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dusts—also may contribute to COPD.
How does COPD affect the lungs?
Air becomes trapped inside the lungs due to excess mucus, scarring and narrowing of the air passages, and destruction of the air sacs. This leads to limitation of airflow in and out of the lungs.
How can you prevent COPD?
The most important thing you can do to prevent is to quit smoking immediately. Also, try to stay away from secondhand smoke as much as possible.
How is it treated?
Pulmonologists like those at The Oregon Clinic are specialists in treating COPD. If you suspect you have COPD, reach out to your primary care physician who will do some testing and refer you to a Pulmonologist if needed. Read more about our Pulmonary specialists.