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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease in which the lung is damaged, making it difficult to breathe. In COPD, the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs) are partly obstructed, making it difficult to get air in and out.
Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Most people with the condition are smokers or former smokers. Breathing in other kinds of lung irritants, like pollution, dust, or chemicals, over a long period of time may also cause or contribute to COPD.
COPD develops slowly, and it may be many years before you notice symptoms, such as feeling short of breath, coughing, or wheezing. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people.
There is no cure for COPD. The damage to your airways and lungs cannot be reversed, but there are things you can do to feel better and slow the damage to your lungs. Quitting smoking is also the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing COPD and slow the progress of the disease.
(Click COPD for a more in-depth look at important information on COPD. This article discusses what happens to the lungs in people who have COPD, describes possible symptoms of this disease, and explains how a doctor may diagnose it.)