• The main cause of COPD is smoking. In Canada, smoking causes over 80% of COPD cases. The longer and heavier a person smokes, the higher their risk. Other causes of COPD include: second-hand smoke long-term exposure to air pollution, dust, chemicals and fumes frequent and severe chest infections as a child alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (a rare genetic condition) COPD takes years to develop, so it is more common in people 40 and over.

  • What is COPD? COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a permanent narrowing of the airways that carry air in and out of your lungs. The airways become swollen and partly blocked by phlegm (pronounced "flem"). COPD also damages the tiny air sacs in your lungs, trapping air inside the lungs. Both of these conditions lead to breathing difficulties.

  • The type and severity of COPD symptoms you experience may differ from other people with the same disease. COPD symptoms include: shortness of breath cough coughing up phlegm (pronounced "flem") frequent lung infections that last a long time wheezing fatigue unintended weight loss If you have COPD symptoms but have not been diagnosed with COPD, you may be at risk, especially if you are 40 and over and a smoker (or have smoked in the past).

  • What is a COPD flare-up? COPD flare-ups (also called COPD exacerbations) are times when your symptoms get noticeably worse or when new symptoms appear. Flare-ups may be brought on by a chest infection from a cold or the flu, or they may be triggered by air pollution or allergies. It's important to tell your doctor about any flare-up, chest infection, or attack of breathlessness you experience.

  • COPD is a chronic condition that will likely get worse over time. COPD can also put you at higher risk for other health problems. Knowing the risks can help you and your doctor identify and respond to these conditions: frequent chest infections (such as pneumonia and the flu) higher-than-usual blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (also called "pulmonary hypertension") heart problems eye problems (such as glaucoma and cataracts) thinning of the bones losing body mass and muscles, loss of appetite, feeling nauseous and weak muscle weakness malnutrition: not absorbing nutrients from food, not eating enough lung cancer Your COPD Action PlanTM Your doctor can help you fill out your COPD Action PlanTM, found with the Doctor Discussion Guide (complete the Doctor Discussion Guide and print your results; the COPD Action PlanTM will print along with your results).

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