Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – also known as COPD – can occur when there is chronic damage to your lungs over a period of years. COPD is considered the third leading cause of death in the United States, with more women than men dying from this disease. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 24 million individuals in the United States alone live with this condition, although only about half have been diagnosed.
COPD is a progressive lung disease and refers to any of the following conditions, according to the COPD Foundation:
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Refractory (non-reversible) asthma
- Some forms of bronchiectasis
In most cases, COPD is caused by smoking. If you are a smoker – or former smoker – and experience shortness of breath, a chronic cough, and expel phlegm when you cough, you may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other symptoms can include wheezing, tightness in the chest, or difficulty taking a deep breath.