There are many people who suffer from the disabling condition of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). There are two conditions referred to by COPD: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The two conditions are related to one another and a person who suffers from COPD could have one or both of them.
COPD is typically characterized by a chronic cough, a cold that refuses to go away, shortness of breath while exerting one’s self or sitting still, and a decrease in endurance. According to Deborah Rathman, a certified respiratory therapist at Pennsylvania’s St. Joseph Medical Center, the disease often goes undiagnosed until it reaches the advanced stages. In many cases, patients do not seek help until daily activity is significantly impacted by the condition.
Diagnosing COPD requires a simple test of breathing functions which typically only takes around an hour and is painless.
The majority of COPD cases are attributed to long-term smoking, though the American Lung Association says that exposure to certain industrial pollutants and other environmental agents are the cause of approximately 20 percent of cases. There is also a possibility, though rare, of genetic factors causing emphysema.
As is typical of most diseases, COPD has a different effect and progression for each patient. Normally the condition will slowly develop, but there are some who will feel the effects more quickly than others.