What Is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 10, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

What is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging.net. She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is an incurable but treatable lung disease that tends to develop slowly and worsen gradually. Having COPD means that the lungs have developed permanent changes that affect the body's ability to exhale properly. This can eventually affect the ability to do everyday activities including walking, working, and handling self-care tasks. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

People with COPD tend to get out of breath easily, and they may have to give themselves extra time to breathe out slowly. Due to damage to the lung structure, extra air is often trapped in the lungs, making it difficult both to inhale oxygen and to exhale carbon dioxide as efficiently as a healthy person can.

There are two main types of COPD, affecting slightly different parts of the lungs: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Typically, people with COPD have both of these diseases, which is why the more general term COPD has become the preferred usage.

COPD isn't reversible, but it is treatable. The purpose of treatment is to slow the disease's progression, and to prevent exacerbations, or flare-ups. For those who smoke, quitting slows the disease process.

Community Answers

Qvcgal answered...


Jazzmin answered...

Control the disease by quitting smoking or being around other smokers. The smoke dries out the lungs faster than they can recuperate, and consequently produces extra phlegm to try to overcome the dryness; this then causes the sometimes uncontrollable coughing. Your doctor should have you on a regiment of either inhalers (puffers), or breathing treatments, with a nebulizer, such as albuterol or other med that assists the lung's constant need for renewal. If your oxygen exchange gets low, particularly when you sleep or overexert, you may need to be on a prescribed oxygen therapy. Please don't expect the doctor to prescribe pain meds. However, they may allow steroids on a rare occasion to help facilitate breathing. They may even prescribe an anti-inflammatory.

When you overexert, or your gas exchange becomes stressed, try pursing your lips and breathing through your mouth, normally. This will help the carbon dioxide leave and the lungs use the oxygen that is in the lungs. Sitting or laying down while going through a spell, can also help.

Diana ashworth answered...

This works

Y not answered...

Whilst I generally agree with everything above I was advised to exercise as this "forces" the lungs to exchange oxygen/carbon dioxide more quickly and, as a result makes the lungs perform at their peak. I don't mean exercising until you collapse, simply raise the heart rate and start to labor the breathing. I have COPD (Stage 2), I attend the gym 3 - 4 times a week (they know about the condition) and I am assured that this is good for me. The comments above suggest rest & relaxation which, whilst this is good for you, needs to be balanced with exercise to maintain the body in the best possible condition for as long as possible.