What Is COPD? ( also known as COLD or CORD)
C hronic - means it's on-going; doesn't go away
O bstructive - means it's partially blocked
P ulmonary - it's in the lungs
D isease - An illness
COPD is a progressive lung disease that affects more than 750,000 "diagnosed" Canadians. However; a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Lung Association puts that number at 1.5 million with potentially another 1.6 million individuals unaware they may have developed it.
What's It's Comprised Of? Usually Chronic Bronchitis and/or Emphysema. Many COPD sufferers may also have an asthma component.
Chronic Bronchitis affects the lining inside your bronchial tubes. They get irritated and fill with mucus resulting in a wet cough. The mucus plugs or blocks the tubes marking it harder for you to breathe. With emphysema the tiny hair like air sacs called "alveoli" get irritated and stiff making it hard to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide. The end result is shortness of breath.
What Does It Do? It blocks and narrows the airways and inflames the lungs causing obstruction.
What Are the Symptoms or Characteristics? The common characteristics of COPD is trouble breathing (shortness of breath aka SOB) and/or a cough lasting 3 or more months. You may have noticed you have to stop and catch your breath more, or perhaps you don't exercise as much because you've always thought you were "out of shape". Perhaps you are, or you were, a smoker and you have developed what many refer to as a "smoker's cough".
Note: You may have COPD even if you don't cough. You may still develop COPD even if you quit smoking some time (years) before.
How Did I Get It? It's believed that 80-90% of the cases of COPD is caused from smoking. New evidence is also showing that pollution from certain occupations, air pollution in general, certain childhood illnesses and genes may have contributed to the development of this disease . Then there's Alpha 1 Deficiency; a gene deficiency which causes emphysema even if you've never smoked or been around second hand smoke.
Will It Ever Go Away or Get Better? No; it will never go away; once you have it there's no turning back the clock. The damage cannot be undone. No; it will not "get better" but the symptoms can be managed and slowed with the right medicines and life style changes.
For additional information on COPD and the causes of this disease, please visit Web MD's page
You can also visit the Public Health Agency of Canada for information and resource links
This page was last updated July 2013