What Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

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What Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
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What Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
What Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
htmWhatIsCOPD
In patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, damage to the lung's airways and air sacs, typically caused by smoking, makes it physically difficult to breathe in and out.
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2014-09-02

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

What Is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease?
 
Breathing is effortless and unconscious for most people. Hundreds of times each day you breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide while gas exchange takes place in your lungs.
 
Fresh, inhaled oxygen is absorbed into the blood circulating through your lungs. Oxygen-rich blood then travels from the lungs to the heart and is pumped into the arteries to be distributed throughout your body. At the same time, carbon dioxide (a waste product produced by your cells) travels to your heart through your veins. It is then pumped into your lungs to be released as you exhale.
 
For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), breathing is not this easy. Damage to the lung's airways and air sacs, typically caused by smoking, environmental exposure or genetics, makes it physically difficult to breathe in and out.
 
Inflammation of the airways blocks the movement of air, and it becomes difficult to get oxygen into the body. Breathlessness may occur during exercise, during very little activity or even at rest depending on the severity of COPD.
 
People with COPD are more likely to get lung infections, such as pneumonia, or have repeated breathing problems that sometimes require hospitalization. In severe cases, when there is a lot of lung damage, poor breathing may severely limit your activity.

 

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Last updated September 02, 2011


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