Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Understanding Emphysema And Chronic Bronchitis

An Educational Health Series From National Jewish Medical And Research Center

What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Chronic means long term. Obstructive means there is blockage in the lungs. Pulmonary is a term for lungs.

COPD can mean many diseases. Emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma are all forms of chronic obstructive lung disease. Millions of people in the United States have COPD.

Smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Smoking damages the airways in the lungs. In chronic bronchitis, the swollen airways are blocked with extra mucus. In emphysema, the air sacs are damaged and trap air. When the air sac damage is very bad, less oxygen moves from the lungs into the blood.

Because of these conditions, people with COPD have a hard time breathing. Symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath with activity, coughing up mucus from the lungs and, sometimes, wheezing.

Breathing tests are the only way to diagnose COPD in the early stages.

Do You Have COPD?

COPD Checklist
> Have you smoked for many years?
> Have you had bouts of bronchitis?
> Do you have a chronic cough and bring up mucus from your lungs?
> Do you have a morning "smoker's" cough?
> Do you have chest colds every winter?
> Do your colds seem to last for weeks, instead of days?
> Do you get out of breath during daily activities?
> Has there been a change in your breathing?

If you answer "yes" to these questions, it's time to talk with your doctor about COPD.

Your doctor will ask you questions about your health and give you a complete exam. To diagnose COPD, your doctor will give you a breathing test. A breathing test can catch COPD in the early stages, even before you have symptoms.

Sometimes your doctor may need more information about your health. Other tests can help your doctor find the best way to treat you. These may include X-rays, blood oxygen tests, mucus culture or exercise test.