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By Teresa Bigham/The Hesperian-Beacon—
November is National COPD Awareness Month and a great opportunity to educate people about COPD.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and gets worse over time, says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath and can cause the chest to feel tight. The Mayo Clinic says that COPD is normally caused by long term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. People with COPD are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other health issues.
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two most shared conditions that contribute to COPD. According to the Mayo Clinic these two conditions usually occur together and can vary in severity among individuals with COPD.
Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, which is what carries air to and from the air sacs of the lungs. While emphysema is a condition in which the alveoli at the end of the smallest air passages of the lungs are destroyed because of damaging exposure to cigarette smoke.
The Mayo Clinic says COPD symptoms often do not appear until significant lung damage has already occurred. Some of the signs and symptoms of COPD according to the Mayo Clinic are but not limited to shortness of breath, especially during physical activities, wheezing, chest tightness, a chronic cough, frequent respiratory infections, lack of energy and swelling in ankles, feet and/or legs.
The Mayo Clinic reminds us to seek immediate medical care if you cannot catch your breath if you experience sever blueness of the lips or fingernails and if you have rapid heartbeat.