COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a group of lung diseases that cause obstruction of the airways. This results in a decreased ability to move air in and out of the lungs. Diseases classified under the heading of COPD include emphysema
, chronic bronchitis
, and bronchiectasis
. Even with treatment, COPD is not completely reversible and usually worsens over time.
Symptoms of COPD include difficulty breathing, a chronic cough, and wheezing.
While smoking is responsible for the majority of COPD cases, secondhand smoke, the inherited disorder alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, and occupational exposures to substances such as coal mine dust are also important causes.
COPD is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, and is also a risk factor for developing lung cancer.