Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung condition that interferes with your ability to breathe. It affects millions of Americans and is the 3rd leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S. COPD has two main components, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis occurs when the lining of the air passages become inflamed and produce large amounts of mucus. Emphysema is a condition that leads to permanent damage to the small parts of the lungs that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. This results in a shortness of breath that steadily gets worse over time. Repetitive exposure to irritants leads to COPD. Over 90% of all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Other risk factors for COPD include exposure to air pollution, breathing secondhand smoke and working with dust, fumes or chemical irritants. A genetic condition called Alpha-1-deficiency or a history of childhood respiratory infections can also be risk factors for COPD.


Unfortunately, COPD is a condition that develops over many years, and symptoms often do not appear until significant lung damage has already occurred. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, fatigue, wheezing, excessive mucus production and blueness of the lips or fingernail beds.


Your Esse Health doctor will test your lung capacity using a spirometer, a device that you blow into that provides a measurement of the amount of air coming into and going out of your lungs. Other tests may include a chest X-ray to provide an image of your lungs and an arterial blood gas test, which measures the oxygen level in your blood.


Early diagnosis is critical to slowing the progression of COPD. Eliminating exposure to the irritant is essential. (If you smoke, please stop!) Smoking cessation options are available to help you quit. There are medications that can help reduce the symptoms of COPD. Supplemental oxygen can help provide the oxygen your body needs. Esse Health has a COPD program and services to help you control your condition

COPD is a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Talk to your Esse Health doctor about our COPD program.

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