Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease is a condition that produces progressive destruction of the lungs and permanent respiratory impairment.
COPD consists of two elements:
Emphysema, which is the loss of the natural elasticity of the lungs, allowing them to become large and overstretched. This results in increased necessity to use muscles to move air in and out of the lungs, which in turn limits activities of daily life, due to breathlessness.
Chronic Bronchitis, which is the excess production of mucus and secretions and diminished ability to clear them. This results in a persistent and chronic cough.
Many people are erroneously diagnosed with COPD, usually because they are smokers and have symptoms. It is possible to be a smoker and not have COPD. That is why recognition of a proper diagnosis is critical.
The accurate diagnosis requires a careful history and physical examination and a comprehensive Pulmonary Function Test (see Testing).
Since COPD is a progressive disease,, allowing it to remain untreated carries the risk of further destruction of the lungs with permanent, irreversible damage.
The most commonly encountered risk factor is cigarette smoking however, also of important consideration are outdoor, occupational and indoor air pollution.
The goal is to maximize exercise function, given the respiratory limitations, through education. Medications and other steps should be taken with the goal of preventing exacerbations.