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Do I Have COPD?

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Updated September 12, 2013

Do I Have COPD?

COPD

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Question: Do I Have COPD?
I'm concerned. I quit smoking 3 months ago and still have trouble breathing. I get winded easily - walking up a flight of stairs leaves me breathless. I thought my breathing was going to improve when I quit smoking, but it doesn't seem to be going that way. Do I have COPD?
Answer: COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is blanket term that covers a couple of respiratory conditions. They are:

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a condition in which the bronchial tubes in the lungs become chronically inflamed due to an irritant - usually cigarette smoke. This inflammation leads to increased mucus production, producing a chronic cough and making breathing difficult.

Emphysema

Continued exposure to cigarette smoke or other lung irritants will, over time destroy the delicate structure of our lungs by breaking down the walls between air sacs (alveoli). This damage results in fewer, larger air sacs, which spells trouble for lung function. The lung's ability to properly process the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between blood and the air we breathe relies on the surface area of the alveoli. Large sacs means less usable oxygen, leaving a person with emphysema breathless. Damage from emphysema is irreversible.

Symptoms of COPD:

  • cough
  • sputum (mucus) production
  • shortness of breath, especially with exercise
  • wheezing(a whistling or rattle type noise) when you breathe in
  • tightness in the chest
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it's time to see your doctor. The earlier COPD is diagnosed and treated, the better your chances are for arresting further damage. Your doctor will be able to assess lung condition with a pulmonary function test.

Don't be discouraged.

While quitting may not return your lung function to 100% of what it was before you started smoking, it will improve your breathing and the way you feel overall. And don't forget - you also greatly reduce your risk of other smoking-related illnesses when you quit smoking, most of them life-threatening. Many people with COPD live productive, comfortable lives after quitting tobacco.

Stick with your quit program - you're on the right track. Your lungs are thanking you for not abusing them any longer!

Information for this article obtained from NHLBI: COPD
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  6. Do I Have COPD? Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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