Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
by Debra Wood, RN
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that gets worse over time. It will become hard to move air in and out of the lungs. Forms of COPD includes:
These diseases often happen together. The causes and treatment are alike.
COPD is caused by damage to the lungs. This damage can be caused by:
Things that increase your chance of developing COPD include:
Early symptoms of COPD include:
As the disease gets worse, symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests will show how well the lungs are working:
There is no cure for COPD. It will get worse over time. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and improve quality of life. A plan will be made with the care team.
A pulmonary rehab program can be helpful. It offers education and tips to stay as healthy as possible. Treatment steps include:
Smoking will worsen COPD. There are a number of tools to help quit smoking including:
Medicine can help to ease symptoms. They may:
Medicine may be taken as pills, liquids, or inhaled straight to the lungs. They may be long term control medicine or for emergency use.
COPD makes it hard for oxygen to pass through the lungs and into the body. Oxygen therapy will increase the amount of oxygen that gets into your lungs. This will then increase the amount of oxygen that gets into the body. It can ease breathing and improve energy levels. Oxygen therapy may only be need it for physical activity in early stages. It may be needed throughout the day in later stages.
Regular exercise helps the heart and body work better. This will lower the workload on the lungs. Exercise can also improve overall health and mood. Cardio exercises like walking and strength exercise are both helpful. Yoga may also be helpful because of breathing training. An activity plan can be made with care team or during pulmonary rehab.
Special exercises can also make chest muscles stronger. This can help to ease to breathing.
Being overweight can make breathing harder. A weight loss plan may be needed.
Some find it hard to eat well with COPD. It can lead to unhealthy weight loss. Nutrition support may help to improve nutrition and improve weight.
Education about possible irritants is helpful. Smoke, dust, smog, extreme heat or cold, and high altitudes can all make breathing worse. Most can be avoided or limited. There are also steps to decrease the impact it will have.
Special methods can ease shortness of breath. Some examples include:
Long term health issues can be stressful. This can make symptoms worse and decrease quality of life. The impact of stress may be decreased with:
Surgery or Procedures
Certain surgeries or procedures may help the lungs work better. They are not appropriate for everyone. Options include:
A lung transplant will replace damaged lungs with donor lungs. It will require a lifetime of medicine to keep the body from rejecting the lungs. It is not an option for everyone.
To reduce your chance of developing COPD:
American Lung Association
National Lung Health Education Program
COPD. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115557. Updated September 1, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2018.
Living with COPD. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/copd. Accessed October 15, 2018.
Patient Education: Teaching the Patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 28, 2018. Accessed October 15, 2018.
Spirometry. National Lung Health Education Program website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 15, 2018.
11/6/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115557/COPD : Poole P, Chacko E, et al. Influenza vaccine for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(4):CD002733.
12/14/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115557/COPD : Donesky-Cuenco D, Nguyen HQ, et al. Yoga therapy decreases dyspnea-related distress and improves functional performance in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15:225-234.
11/7/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115557/COPD : Dhe J, Yang Y, et al. Chinese water-pipe smoking and the risk of COPD. 2014;146(4):924-931.
Last reviewed September 2018 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 10/15/2018
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