What is COPD?

From the American College of Physicians (ACP) Patient FACTS Sheet on COPD: “Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a lung disease. People with COPD have a hard time getting air in and out of their lungs. COPD may also be called chronic bronchitis or emphysema. Smoking can cause COPD. Some people may also get it from being around other people who smoke or from breathing dirty air.” From the COPD Foundation: “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.” COPD is a progressive disease that is currently incurable, but you CAN make lifestyle changes and work with your doctor to manage your symptoms with treatments to help you live your best life. Quitting smoking* is the most important step you can take in treating your COPD, but there are many ways you can make changes to immediately improve your quality of life and slow progression of the disease.

COPD Signs and Symptoms:

  • Frequent coughing (with and without mucus)
  • Wheezing
  • Increased breathlessness, especially with physical activity
  • Chest tightness
  • Lack of energy
  • Repeated respiratory infections
  • Having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)

COPD Educational Resources

American College of Physicians (ACP)
ACP COPD Resource Page
ACP COPD Patient FACTS Sheet (pdf)
ACP Living With COPD (pdf)

COPD Foundation
COPD Foundation Resource Site
“Understanding Your Lungs”
Glossary of Common COPD Related Terms

American Lung Association (ALA)
ALA COPD Resource Page

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
NHLBI COPD Resource Page

UptoDate.com (UTD)
UTD Free “Beyond the Basics” Articles related to COPD

CheckIn COPD Resource Page (Includes information on treatments and even some of the best foods to incorporate or avoid if you are managing COPD.)

Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic COPD Resource Page

COPD and Nutrition

CheckIn COPD Resource Page (Includes information on treatments and even some of the best foods to incorporate or avoid if you are managing COPD. Please review any foods with your Doctor or Dietitian before incorporating them into your plan.)

COPD and Physical Activity

It is very important to discuss changing your activity level with your doctor before adding any fitness routine, even walking! That said, correct and safe movement can be a very beneficial change to your lifestyle with COPD. Visit this COPD Foundation page to learn more, including ways to purposefully breathe when exercising, matching breathing with effort: “If you have COPD you may think that you can’t exercise. You may think it will make you feel too short of breath. Or you may feel that it is not safe for you. You may think it will make your lung disease much worse. Actually, avoiding exercise can make you more unfit. You lose fitness when you stop exercising. The less you do, the less you are able to do. It’s normal to feel this way if you’re short of breath with COPD. However, exercise, done correctly and safely, is one of the best things you can do to be less short of breath.

Quit Smoking with COPD

*Find ways to help with Quitting Smoking, and more related articles/links on our Nicotine Addiction Patient Education page.