Take Control of your COPD Awareness

On this page, you will find information to help you to understand and deal with COPD.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it increasingly difficult for you to breathe.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main conditions that make up COPD, but COPD can also refer to damage caused by chronic asthmatic bronchitis. In all cases, damage to your airways eventually interferes with the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs.

COPD is a leading cause of death and illness worldwide. Most COPD is caused by long-term smoking and can be prevented by not smoking or quitting soon after you start. Damage to your lungs can't be reversed, so treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and minimizing further damage.

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by Mayo Clinic staff

In general, symptoms of COPD don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time. People with COPD are also likely to experience episodes called exacerbations, during which their symptoms suddenly get much worse. Beyond this, signs and symptoms of COPD can vary, depending on which lung disease is most prominent. It's also possible to have many of these symptoms at the same time.


Signs and symptoms of emphysema include:

    • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
    • Wheezing
    • Chest tightness

Chronic bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis occurs mainly in smokers. It's defined as a cough that you have at least three months a year for two consecutive years. People who continue to smoke may go on to develop emphysema, but in smokers who are able to quit, the cough may clear in a few days or weeks.

Signs and symptoms of chronic bronchitis include:

    • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, especially if you smoke
    • A chronic cough that produces yellowish sputum
    • Shortness of breath in the later stages
    • Frequent respiratory infections

Chronic asthmatic bronchitis

Chronic asthmatic bronchitis is usually chronic bronchitis combined with asthma (bronchospasm). Asthma can occur when inflamed and infected secretions irritate the smooth muscles in your airways. Symptoms are similar to those of chronic bronchitis, but you're also likely to have intermittent — or even daily — episodes of wheezing

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