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What is COPD?

March 09, 2020 | Patty Schwab, RN


COPD is an acronym for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

So what does that mean?

Chronic: It is always present and ongoing.

Obstructive: Impairment of the lung’s ability to move air in and out of the lungs. It also can weaken the lung’s ability to transport oxygen to our vital organs.

Pulmonary: Pertaining to the lungs.

Disease: Meaning there is damage to the lungs and proper function is in decline.

Symptoms and severity of COPD can be different for each person. The most common are increased shortness of breath, persistent cough that doesn’t clear, increased phlegm or mucous production, and unexplained fatigue.

Living with COPD can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks. Simple things that once were taken for granted become a burden, such as bathing and dressing, doing light housework, or even just walking to the mailbox.

When the lungs are exposed to irritants repeatedly over time, damage can occur leading to the development COPD. While smoking is the most common culprit, farming, welding, and other occupations with exposures to fumes, dusts, and chemicals can contribute also. There is a small population of people who inherit the disease due to a rare genetic disorder.

COPD can be diagnosed by a physician or a pulmonologist (doctor who specializes in diseases of the lung). This is done by taking a history of symptoms, smoking habits, occupational exposures, and family medical history. Your doctor may order other tests to confirm a diagnosis such as a chest x-ray, bloodwork, and a pulmonary function test. A pulmonary function test is a pain-free breathing test that measures lung volumes and airflows in and out of the lungs. The pulmonary function test also helps to determine the severity of the disease and will assist your doctor in determining treatment options.

According to the American Lung Association, more than 15.3 million people in the United States suffer from COPD, with many more not yet diagnosed. COPD is progressive, meaning it worsens over time. Although it is a non-curable disease, slowing the progression and better managing the disease should be a priority if you’ve been diagnosed with COPD. The number one thing you can do to improve your quality of life is to quit smoking. For assistance call the OHIO Quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Fisher-Titus offers a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program designed for those struggling with COPD. Our program offers the tools to assist you in better managing your symptoms, decreasing your shortness of breath, improving your fatigue and related anxieties associated in living with a COPD diagnosis.

About Patty

Patty Schwab, RN is the Cardiac Rehab Coordinator for Fisher-Titus Heart and Vascular. For more information, call Fisher-Titus Heart & Vascular at (419) 660-2600 or visit fishertitus.org/heart. If you think you might benefit from Pulmonary Rehabilitation, talk with your primary care provider about a referral.