Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic asthma. The main symptom of COPD is feeling out of breath especially during exertion (walking up hills for example) and is caused by long-term damage to the lungs, often as a result of smoking. Certain occupations can also cause COPD.
As the condition progresses, breathing in and out will become increasingly difficult as the airways narrow. You may find it hard to do normal activities, such as walking to the shops. It is also common to have an ongoing ‘chesty’ cough.
The symptoms of COPD can seem similar to those of asthma. COPD causes permanent damage to the lungs and treatment can help reduce but not prevent symptoms, whereas asthma treatment should normally prevent symptoms and therefore prevent long term damage to the lungs. Treatment for COPD usually involves relieving the symptoms; for example, by using an inhaler to make breathing easier. It can also help prevent ‘flare-ups’ (called “exacerbations”) of the condition, when symptoms suddenly get worse. This often happens after or during a chest infection.
If you are a smoker no matter how long you have been smoking, it is always worth giving up. You will prevent further irreversible damage to the lungs, as well as reducing risk of other conditions. For support giving up smoking, talk to your GP, Practice Nurse or your local support group. You can find support groups local to you by typing your postcode in Practical Help page along with the type of support you want.
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