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COPD - Frequently Asked Questions


What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term referring to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that are characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing.

Is COPD Caused by Smoking?

The most significant risk factor for developing COPD is cigarette smoking. The American Lung Association estimates that 80% to 90% of those diagnosed are chronic smokers. The amount an individual smokes as well as how long they have been smoking can increase the probability of developing the disease and intensify its severity. Risk factors are not only prevalent in those who smoke regular cigarettes, but with pipe and cigar smokers as well.

What are the symptoms for COPD?

People with COPD may experience:
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath, especially during activity
  • Persistent cough
  • Excessive mucus (phlegm)
  • Wheezing, whistling, or squeaking when you breathe
  • Trouble keeping up with your normal activities
  • Lung infections more than once a year

Does Diet affect COPD?

Yes. Those with COPD must consider the following:
  • Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
  • Monitor Your Body Weight
  • Drink Plenty of Fluids
  • Decrease Sodium Intake
  • Avoid Overeating and Foods that Cause Gas
  • Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals that Are High in Calories
  • Include Enough Fiber in Your Diet
  • Avoid being around smoke or smoking

How Does COPD make it Hard to Breathe?

The airways in your lungs lose their elasticity, which makes it harder to get the air out when exhaling. The walls between air sacs are destroyed. The walls of the airways themselves become thick and swollen, and the airways narrow. Cells in the walls of the airways make more mucus than usual, which blocks the airways.

What is Emphysema?

The lungs contain millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. In emphysema, the sacs lose their elasticity and air becomes trapped in the sacs. It becomes difficult to expel oxygen-depleted air from the lungs, so the normal exchange of new and used air is diminished.

What is chronic bronchitis?

Chronic bronchitis is a condition in which the airways in the lungs become inflamed. In chronic bronchitis, the condition lasts for a long time or continues to recur. The best ways to improve prognosis of chronic bronchitis is to begin treatment early and stop smoking.

What is bronchiectasis?

There are two types of bronchiectasis - congenital and acquired. Congenital bronchiectasis is a birth defect, caused due to a faulty gene inherited from either of the parent. This defect is also known as immotile cilia syndrome, due to lack of sufficient cilia in the air passage. As the name suggests, acquired bronchiectasis is contracted due to various reasons. Some of the causes of this type of bronchiectasis is smoking, both active and passive, and inhaling contaminated air or toxic fumes.