Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that makes it harder to breathe. It's a chronic disease, meaning that once one starts experiencing symptoms they may continue over time. And it's progressive in that the symptoms progress and gradually get worse over time.
COPD is actually a term used to describe a few lung diseases, primarily chronic bronchitis and emphysema. A person with COPD may have one or both of these, and each affects the lungs differently.
Bronchitis causes the airways to swell up and produce extra mucus. This can lead to heavy, phlegmy coughing, chest discomfort, and wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe).
There are two types of bronchitis, acute and chronic.
Emphysema is characterized by damage to the alveoli, tiny sacs that deliver air to the lungs. As a result, the body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs. Emphysema can leave one feeling short of breath, and can cause coughing or trouble breathing during exercise.
There’s no cure for COPD, but there are many medication options that may help manage the symptoms. There are also lifestyle changes you and your loved one can make that may make it easier to live with the condition.