Lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe
Expert Heart & Vascular Care
Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our heart or vascular specialists.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a family of lung diseases that progressively limit airflow into and out of the lungs. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD can cause high blood pressure in the the blood vessels from the heart to the lungs, known as pulmonary hypertension. This makes the heart have to work harder and can lead to heart disease or heart failure. COPD also can increase your risk of developing lung cancer and other medical conditions.
Our specialists will work with you to manage your symptoms, maintain your quality of life, and reduce your risk of developing other conditions associated with COPD.
What are chronic bronchitis and emphysema?
Chronic bronchitis is irritation and swelling in the lining of the air passages known as the bronchial tubes. The condition causes the airway to narrow and your lungs to produce an excess amount of mucus. You develop a cough trying to clear your airways of this mucus. Bronchitis is considered chronic when you have a daily cough and mucus production that lasts for three months or more each year for two or more years in a row.
Emphysema is a lung disease that destroys the fragile walls and elastic fibers of the alveoli (air sacs) at the end of the bronchial tubes, making it difficult to catch your breath.
What are the causes and symptoms of COPD?
The main cause of COPD is long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs. Cigarette smoke is the cause in the majority of cases, although it also can be the result of exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes and dust.
In a small percentage of people, the disease is the result of a genetic disorder that causes low levels of a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin. This protein is made in the liver and helps protect the lungs.
COPD generally causes mild or no symptoms until the disease gets worse. As the symptoms become more severe, you may experience:
- Coughing that produces a lot of mucus
- Feeling of tightness in the chest
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity
Diagnosing COPD is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more lung function tests, imaging tests and blood tests.
There is no cure for COPD, but lifestyle changes and medical treatment may relieve symptoms and restore better quality of life. Quitting smoking is the most important steps you can take to treat COPD. Other treatment options may include medication, oxygen therapy or surgery, including a lung transplant.