Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

COPD Health Center

Font Size

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - What Increases Your Risk

Tobacco smoking

Tobacco smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD. Compared to smoking, other risks are minor.

  • Some studies show that up to half of long-term smokers older than age 60 get COPD.3
  • Pipe and cigar smokers have less risk of getting COPD than cigarette smokers. But they still have more risk than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking both tobacco and marijuana increases the risk of COPD more than smoking either one.1
  • The risk for COPD increases with both the amount of tobacco you smoke each day and the number of years you have smoked.

To learn more, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Recommended Related to COPD

COPD Comorbid Conditions: Heart Disease, Osteoporosis, and More

The Importance of Comorbid Conditions Most COPD patients have other chronic medical problems as well. These may include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and cancer. These other conditions are called "comorbidities." In recent years the link between COPD and these other conditions has attracted a great deal of attention. For some reason comorbid conditions seem to be more common in people with COPD than in patients with other...

Read the COPD Comorbid Conditions: Heart Disease, Osteoporosis, and More article > >

Other risks

Family history

Some people may be more at risk than others for getting the disease, especially if they have low levels of the protein alpha-1 antitrypsin (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency), a disorder that runs in families.

Preterm birth

Preterm babies usually need to have long-term oxygen therapy because their lungs are not fully developed. This therapy can cause lung damage (neonatal chronic lung disease) that can increase the risk for COPD later in life.


Asthma and COPD are different diseases, even though both of them involve breathing problems. People with asthma may have a greater risk for getting COPD, but the reasons for this are not fully understood.

Risks in the environment

  • Outside air pollution. Air pollution may make COPD worse. It may increase the risk of a flare-up, or COPD exacerbation, when your symptoms quickly get worse and stay worse. Try not to be outside when air pollution levels are high.
  • Indoor air pollution. Have good ventilation in your home to avoid indoor air pollution.
  • Secondhand smoke. It is not yet known whether secondhand smoke can lead to COPD. But a large study showed that children who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to get emphysema than children who weren't exposed.4 And people who are exposed to secondhand smoke for a long time are more likely to have breathing problems and respiratory diseases.
  • Occupational hazards. If your work exposes you to chemical fumes or dust, use safety equipment to reduce the amount of fumes and dust you breathe.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: September 09, 2014
    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

    man talking to his doctor
    Check your COPD risk.
    woman using inhaler
    What is the top cause of this condition?
    chest x-ray
    7 early warning signs.
    Senior couple stretching
    10 exercises for people With COPD.
    Bronchitis Overview
    Senior woman blowing dandelion
    Living With Copd
    human lung graphic
    Energy Boosting Foods
    red heart and ekg
    Living With Copd
    Senior couple stretching