Condition: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that limits airflow and causes inflammation.
Background: In the U.S., COPD affects 5% of the population and causes approximately 120,000 deaths annually. It is often a result of smoking, but toxins in the air and environment can cause COPD as well.
Risk Factors: Tobacco smoking, as well as ongoing exposure to environmental fumes and dust put a person at risk for COPD.
History and Symptoms: Difficulty breathing, ongoing coughing and coughing that produces mucus, chest tightness and wheezing are symptoms associated with COPD.
Physical Exam: Physicians typically ask about a person’s smoking history, and issues around it, such as difficulty breathing. The physician will also examine the patient's general appearance to help determine if they have COPD and what stage they are in. In the later stages, the diameter of the chest may increase. When COPD patients take a breath in, sometimes the lower ribcage moves inward which is abnormal.
Diagnostic Process: To diagnose COPD, a physician may perform a chest x-ray as well as lung function tests that measure the amount of air in the lungs and how quickly it moves in and out.
Rehab Management: If a patient smokes he or she should stop, since this can stop the progression of COPD. Other rehabilitation involves managing medications, exercising and adopting healthy new lifestyle habits. Although pulmonary rehabilitation does not improve lung function directly, it strengthens the body so the lung dysfunction is minimized.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: The National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute COPD Learn More Breathe Better® campaign offers resources that may help.