Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a growing epidemic, affecting 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 45. A serious lung disease that often goes undiagnosed, COPD is the 4th leading cause of death and 2nd leading cause of disability in the U.S.
Although COPD has readily recognizable symptoms, about 12 million Americans may have COPD but not realize it. Proper diagnosis and treatment can enhance and prolong life. That’s why NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is working to get the word out about COPD, especially among those who are at greatest risk for the disease.
COPD sometimes goes by other names, like emphysema or chronic bronchitis. It arises when airways in the lungs become partly blocked, making it harder to breathe. Symptoms include constant coughing that produces lots of mucus, wheezing and shortness of breath. When COPD is severe, breathing difficulties can get in the way of even the most basic activities, like doing housework, taking a walk and even bathing and getting dressed.