COPD Home > What Is COPD?

Some people may wonder, "What is COPD?" 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. 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. Most people with the condition are smokers or former smokers.
 
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. The single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of developing COPD and slow the progress of the disease is to stop smoking.
 
(Click COPD for a more in-depth look at what COPD is and how it is treated. This article also describes possible symptoms of this disease and explains how a doctor may diagnose it.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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