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GET THE FACTS: What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

By: Syed Mudassar Naqshbandi, MD, Wentworth Health Partners Seacoast Pulmonary Medicine

Naqshbandi_Syed Mudassar.jpgWhat is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) describes a group of lung conditions that make it difficult to empty the air out of the lungs. This can lead to shortness of breath or feeling tired.

What are the symptoms of COPD?
In the early stages, you may not have any symptoms. As COPD progresses, you may experience:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing (whistling noise as you breathe)
  • Cough

What causes COPD?
The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Other less common causes are inhalation of toxic fumes and gases. Rarely, a genetic defect may cause COPD.

How do I know I have COPD?
You may be at risk for COPD if you answer yes to three or more of these questions:

  • Do you cough several times most days?
  • Do you bring up phlegm or mucus most days?
  • Do you get out of breath?
  • Are you over 40 years old?
  • Are you a current smoker or an ex-smoker?

Your doctor can give you a test called “spirometry” to check for COPD, which measures if you have airway obstruction or not.

How is COPD treated?
The first most important treatment if you are a smoker is to stop smoking. Quitting will slow your disease and help you feel better. There are a lot of medicines to treat COPD. Medications have been shown to help stabilize the breathing passages and decrease swelling. 

With COPD you can learn to use the lung power you have more efficiently. Attending groups or enrolling in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program can be helpful.

Rarely, people with severe COPD will have surgery to remove the most damaged parts of their lung.

The providers at Seacoast Pulmonary Medicine treat patients with lung conditions, including COPD. For more information about providers, services offered or to make an appointment, please call (603) 740-9713.

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