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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that make it hard to breathe. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD, but breathing secondhand smoke, dust at work, or fumes from stoves, heaters, or chemicals can also cause it. In rare cases, it can be inherited.
If you have COPD, you'll have some or all of these symptoms:
* You cough a lot and bring up mucus.
* You have trouble catching your breath, especially when you work hard or walk fast.
* When you catch a cold, it takes longer to get better. Your cough worsens, and the mucus you cough up may be a different color than it normally is.
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask you questions about your health. You'll be given one or more simple tests that can give information about how well your lungs are working. Your healthcare provider then decides how to treat you based on your test results. Possible treatments include medicine and oxygen to help you breathe better.
* If you smoke, stop. Your healthcare provider can help you quit and provide information on support groups. There are also prescription and over-the-counter medicines that can help you to quit.
* Learn breathing techniques, such as pursed-lip breathing, that will help you breathe easier, especially when you feel short of breath.
* Stay away from fumes, smoke, and dust. Leave your house if it's being painted or sprayed for insects. Stay in air--conditioned rooms if it's hot outside. Listen to weather reports and stay inside when the air quality is poor.
* Take your COPD medicine the way your healthcare provider tells you, or it may not help you. Tell your healthcare provider if your medicine doesn't seem to be working as well as it used to. Don't stop taking your medicine or change the dose without talking to your healthcare provider first.
* Make a list of all your medicines and keep it with you in case you need to go to the hospital suddenly.
* Exercise regularly. Ask your healthcare provider for an exercise plan that's right for you.
* Eat healthful foods and watch your weight. Lose weight if you're too heavy. If you need to gain weight, your healthcare provider can recommend supplements.
* Drink a lot of noncaffeinated, nonalcoholic fluids (as long as your healthcare provider isn't restricting your fluids) to keep mucus in your lungs from getting thick.
* Avoid sick people. Stay away from anyone who has a cold or the flu. Get a flu vaccine each year. All adults with COPD should receive a pneumonia vaccine.
* Pace yourself. Do things slowly and do them sitting down, if you can. Plan rest periods. If you need help with chores and errands, ask family and friends.
* Call for help if you feel worse. Call 911 if you can't breathe, your fingertips turn blue or gray, your heart feels as if it's pounding in your chest, or you have trouble talking or walking.
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