Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung condition that affects at least 12 million Americans and is one of the leading causes of disability and death. This condition causes the body’s airways to become obstructed through the over-production of mucus, which is itself caused by inflammation of the bronchial tubes that transport air to and from the lungs.
The symptoms of COPD worsen over time, progressing from coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath to weight loss and an increasing lack of energy and oxygen. Your lungs lose the elasticity they rely on to force air out of the body, preventing sufficient air from leaving the lungs when you exhale.
COPD has a few clear causes, including:
- Certain chronic conditions affecting the body’s airways, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- A genetic disorder that causes a deficiency of the protein alpha-1-antitrypsin, which helps to protect the lungs.
The most common cause of COPD, by far, is smoking. Long-term exposure to cigarette smoke and similar irritants inflame the body’s airways and contribute to the development of a chronic cough. Therefore, the best way for most people to reduce their risk of developing COPD is to quit smoking or avoid environmental exposure to smoke as much as possible.
You can take meaningful steps toward quitting smoking by:
- Setting a date to quit.
- Letting family, friends, and co-workers know that you’re quitting.
- Making a plan for navigating challenges such as cravings and withdrawal.
- Removing cigarettes and tobacco products from your environment.
- Working with a doctor.
You can get help to quit smoking through Flushing Hospital Medical Center’s smoking cessation program, Freedom from Smoking, which you can contact at (718) 206-8494 to receive more information. If you need medical attention for symptoms of COPD, schedule an appointment with a pulmonologist at our Ambulatory Care Center by calling (718) 670-5486.
If you or a loved one experiences a COPD-related emergency such as severely-blue lips or fingernail beds, a rapid heartbeat, significant trouble catching a breath, or severe mental fogginess, dial 911 immediately.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.