How to Manage Life With COPD

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease where lung function declines over time. There are approximately 12 million Americans living with the disease and experts estimate that another 12 million have it but just haven’t been diagnosed yet.

MORE: Nine important dos and don’ts for people with COPD.

COPD encompasses two major lung diseases: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both cause substantial damage to the lungs and have similar symptoms.

The initial symptoms of both diseases are usually shortness of breath when undergoing physical exertion, persistent coughing, wheezing, excess mucus, and chest pain or tightness. These symptoms will progress over time until patients begin to experience shortness of breath when resting and other issues such as weight loss, fatigue, swelling in the ankles and feet, and bluish-tinted lips or fingers.

The disease is usually fairly advanced by the time a patient seeks medical attention, often attributing the symptoms to seasonal colds or generally being unfit.

Life with COPD will vary greatly from patient to patient, depending on the severity of the disease, their general overall health, and their lifestyle choices. Many patients will experience flare-ups where the symptoms become more pronounced over a period of days or weeks. According to, most people with the condition find they need to slow down their pace of life, as fatigue and shortness of breath may make it difficult to complete everyday tasks.

Patients with COPD will be advised to change their lifestyle habits. Quitting smoking is the most important thing a person with COPD can do to improve their quality of life. Doctors will also recommend eating well and taking part in a pulmonary rehabilitation program.

In addtion, patients can learn breathing techniques that can help during a flare or when they experience a sudden shortness of breath.

Although there is no cure for COPD, medication and therapies can help slow down the progression of lung decline and ease the symptoms of the disease.  A good support network is essential to help with both the practical and emotional aspects of the disease.

MORE: Four breathing control techniques every COPD patient should know.

COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.