Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

COPD Health Center

Font Size

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - Ongoing Concerns

COPD gradually gets worse over time.

Shortness of breath gets worse as COPD gets worse.

  • If you are diagnosed early, before you have a lot of lung damage, you may have very mild symptoms, even when you are active.
  • If you are diagnosed later, you may have already lost much of your lung function.
    • If you are active, you may be short of breath during activities that didn't used to cause this problem.
    • If you are not very active, you may not notice how much shortness of breath you have until your COPD gets worse.
  • If you have had COPD for many years, you may be short of breath even when you are at rest. Even simple activities may cause very bad shortness of breath.

It's very important to stop smoking. If you keep smoking after being diagnosed with COPD, the disease will get worse faster camera.gif, your symptoms will be worse, and you will have a greater risk of having other serious health problems.

The lung damage that causes symptoms of COPD doesn't heal and cannot be repaired. But if you have mild to moderate COPD and you stop smoking, you can slow the rate at which breathing becomes more difficult. You will never be able to breathe as well as you would have if you had never smoked, but you may be able to postpone or avoid more serious problems with breathing.

Complications

Other health problems from COPD may include:

Care at the end of life

Treatment for COPD is getting better and better at helping people live longer. But COPD is a disease that keeps getting worse, and it can be fatal.

It's important to talk with your doctor about these issues:

  • What is your idea of the "ideal death"? Do you want to be kept alive at all costs? Do you want a calm, peaceful death?
  • If you have sudden, life-threatening breathing problems, do you want mechanical ventilation, which means being connected to a machine that breathes for you?
  • What other kinds of medical treatment do you want, or not want, when you are near the end of life?
  • Do you want an advance directive, which is a legal document that tells your doctor what treatment you want or don't want if you become unable to communicate?
  • What about palliative care? Palliative (say "PAL-ee-uh-tiv") care is a kind of care for people who have illnesses that don't go away and that often get worse over time. It is different from treating your illness.
Care at the End of Life
Writing an Advance Directive
Palliative Care
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 16, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

chest x-ray
SLIDESHOW
Lung Disease Health Check
HEALTH CHECK
 
Senior woman stretching
Article
man with inhaler
Quiz
 
Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
Household Hazards For People With Copd
ARTICLE
 
Living With Copd
VIDEO
Healthy Home Health Check
HEALTH CHECK
 
Energy Boosting Foods
Slideshow
10 Worst Asthma Cities
SLIDESHOW
 
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Hot Tub Disease
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections