What Is COPD?
(COPD) (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) includes two major lung diseases - emphysema and chronic bronchitis - and is primarily caused by smoking. Tobacco smoke narrows the air passages and causes chronic swelling in the lungs, making breathing difficult. For people with COPD, flare-ups or exacerbations (worsening symptoms) can be brought on by a cold or flu, or by something as simple as a change in weather or poor air quality. These flare-ups can result in emergency room visits, hospitalizations and in some cases, death.
Over 850,000 Ontarians (almost 12 per cent) aged 35 and older have COPD.
Long-term exposure to lung irritants that damage the lungs and the airways usually is the cause of COPD. The most common irritant that causes COPD is cigarette smoke. Pipe, cigar, and other types of tobacco smoke also can cause COPD, especially if the smoke is inhaled.
Breathing in secondhand smoke, air pollution, or chemical fumes or dust from the environment or workplace also can contribute to COPD.
Although uncommon, some people who have asthma can develop COPD. Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Treatment usually can reverse the inflammation and narrowing. However, if not, COPD can develop.