What is COPD?
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a condition in which airflow into and out of the lungs becomes increasingly limited over time. In COPD, the airways may become swollen and partly blocked by phlegm (pronounced "flem"). COPD can also be caused by damage to the tiny air sacs in your lungs, trapping air inside the lungs. Both of these contribute to airflow limitations and breathing difficulties. The symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, cough, and coughing up phlegm.
If you have COPD, your symptoms can be caused by two major breathing conditions:
- chronic bronchitis
Who gets COPD?
Over 800,000 Canadians suffer from COPD. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD. The longer and heavier a person smokes, the higher their risk.
What's the difference between mild, moderate, and severe COPD?
Your doctor may order a spirometry test to assess the severity of COPD. A spirometry test is a simple breathing test where you take a deep breath and blow into a machine, which measures how much air comes out and how quickly. The results of the test can help determine the severity of your COPD. Your doctor may recommend different treatments depending on how severe your COPD is.
Unfortunately, most people aren't diagnosed with COPD until the disease has already become quite advanced. By the time they are diagnosed, most people already have moderate or severe COPD.