Commercials for COPD treatments are aired on television all the time nowadays, but still, COPD is a disease that’s not well understood by the average person. If you’ve been diagnosed recently and you’re trying to explain to friends and loved ones just what COPD is, here’s a primer:
Probably least helpful is the actual name that COPD stands for: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Most people will respond, internally at least, with: “Great… What?”
Here’s a visual description: COPD is a thickening of the airways in the lungs, and also destruction of the lung tissue where oxygen is exchanged. So, it’s harder than normal to get air into and out of the lungs, and even when air does get in, the lung tissue doesn’t do a good job exchanging the oxygen from that air and getting it into your bloodstream. The added problem is that carbon dioxide, the body’s waste gas, doesn’t get removed as well either.
All of this results in shortness of breath, which gets more pronounced as the disease gets worse.
COPD sometimes is called chronic bronchitis or emphysema, but some doctors believe that chronic bronchitis could be present without the airway obstruction characteristic of COPD.