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Understand COPD

Understand COPD

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that makes it hard to breathe because the airways that carry air in and out of your lungs are partially blocked. Twelve million people in the US have been diagnosed with COPD.

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two main conditions that make up COPD. Chronic bronchitis is a persistent cough that brings up mucus. Your doctor will determine which of these best describes your condition. He or she will also categorize the severity of your disease as mild, moderate, or severe.

What happens to my airways?

What is “severe” COPD?

Approximately 1/3 of all COPD patients have mild COPD, 1/3 have moderate COPD, and 1/3 have severe COPD. Your physician will assess your overall COPD symptoms and may perform lung function tests, called spirometry, to determine the severity of your COPD. People with severe COPD:

  • Have trouble breathing during the day and at night
  • May be short of breath and tire easily when walking up stairs or across the room
  • Cough a lot and cough up a lot of mucus
  • Have difficulty recovering from lung infections and colds
  • May need oxygen therapy
  • Are likely to have chronic bronchitis, which is characterized by a persistent cough that brings up mucus. In fact, it is estimated that 71% of severe patients have this condition

What happens to my airways?

When you have COPD associated with chronic bronchitis, your airways are both inflamed and constricted. The inflammation produces extra-thick mucus and narrows your airways, making it difficult to breathe. Most of the time, this is the result of a long history of smoking or breathing in other irritants such as pollutants, dust, or chemicals.

There is no cure for COPD. Quitting smoking is the only thing that has been shown to slow the progression of the disease. However, there are a variety of medicines available to help manage your COPD symptoms.

With severe COPD, you are likely already taking medicines to improve your breathing. There are also medicines that can help reduce the risk of COPD symptom flare-ups (exacerbations).

If you have severe COPD, DALIRESP may help you experience fewer exacerbations of COPD symptoms.

DALIRESP is not a bronchodilator and should not be used for treating sudden breathing problems.
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