Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is a group of progressive lung diseases, including conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The majority of people diagnosed with COPD are smokers or former smokers, and it is the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
COPD shares several common risk factors with lung cancer: tobacco use, exposure to irritants such as secondhand smoke, chemicals, or other fumes, genetic predispositions, and age.
Your doctor can diagnose you with a variety of tests, including spirometry, a noninvasive test which assesses your lung function, imaging tests such as a chest x-ray or CT scan, or an arterial blood gas test which measures your blood oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other levels based on a blood sample taken from an artery.
According to the National Institute of Health, up to an estimated 5 percent of people with COPD have a deficiency in a protein called alpha-1-antitrypsin, which can adversely affect the lungs and liver, and may predispose affected people to COPD.
Although there is no cure, there are a variety of treatments to alleviate the symptoms of COPD. Medication such as bronchodilators and glucocorticosteroids will relax the muscles and reduce the inflammation in your airway. Oxygen therapy will increase your blood oxygen level. Surgery is recommended only when symptoms are very severe or other treatments have failed, and may include removing abnormal air spaces from your lungs in a procedure called a bullectomy, or removing damaged upper lung tissues. Sometimes, a lung transplant is an option.