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What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a chronic lung disease that includes two main illnesses: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There is no cure for COPD. Your lungs have 2 mainparts: bronchial tubes and alveoli. When you breathe, the air moves down your trachea through your bronchial tubes and into your alveoli. From the alveoli, oxygen goes into your blood while carbondioxide moves out of your blood. If you have chronic bronchitis, the lining in your bronchial tubes gets red, swollen and full of mucus. This mucus blocks your tubes and makes it hard to breathe. If youhave emphysema, your alveoli are irritated. They get stiff and can't hold enough air. This makes it hard for you to get oxygen into and carbon dioxide out of your blood.
Symptoms include:
Chronic,persistent cough
Increased mucus
Shortness of breath
A tight feeling in the chest
About 12 million people in the United States have COPD. The disease develops over many years. It isalmost always caused by cigarette smoking. The best way to prevent or keep COPD from getting worse is to quit smoking. Other irritants can also cause COPD. These include cigar smoke, secondhand smokeand air pollution. You may also be at risk if the air you breathe at work contains an excessive amount of dust, fumes, smoke, gases, vapors or mists. Workers who smoke are at a much greater risk if theyare exposed to substances in the workplace that can cause COPD.

If you have COPD, the most important thing you can do is to stop smoking. This can stop or at least slow the damage toyour lungs. You may also take some medicines to make you feel better and breathe more easily. These medicines can include antibiotics and some medicines that you inhale. You might need to takesteroids and antibiotics if you get a respiratory infection.

Patients with very serious COPD might have surgery. They might have a lung reduction operation or a lung transplant. These...