Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that block airflow in the lungs. This makes it increasingly difficult to breathe. Many of the symptoms of COPD are similar to asthma symptoms.
Although COPD is the leading cause of death and illness worldwide, it is often preventable. That is because long-term cigarette smoking is the primary cause of this life-threatening disease. Additionally, smokers are particularly likely to suffer from a combination of both asthma and COPD.
It is important to distinguish between asthma, COPD or a combination of the two, as the treatment approach will differ. An allergist/immunologist has specialized training and experience to accurately diagnose these conditions.
Both asthma and COPD may cause shortness of breath and a cough. A daily morning cough that produces a yellowish phlegm is characteristic of COPD. Episodes of wheezing and cough at night are more common with asthma. Other symptoms of COPD include fatigue and frequent respiratory infections.
To make an accurate diagnosis of COPD, your doctor should spend time with you discussing your medical history and perform a physical examination. Chest X-rays, spirometry, CT scans or blood work may also help in diagnosing your condition.
There’s no cure for COPD. But proper medications and lifestyle changes can control symptoms and reduce the progression of damage to the lungs.
If you smoke, stop. It is the only way to prevent COPD from getting worse. Quitting isn’t easy, so talk to your doctor about medications that might help.
Medications are used to treat symptoms of COPD. These include:
People with COPD are susceptible to getting lung infections, so get flu and pneumonia shots every year.
Avoid things that can irritate your lungs, such as smoke, pollution, and air that is cold and dry.