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, 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:

  • More frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia.
  • An increased risk of thinning bones (osteoporosis), especially if you use oral corticosteroids.
  • Problems with weight. If chronic bronchitis is the main part of your COPD, you may need to lose weight. If emphysema is your main problem, you may need to gain weight and muscle mass.
  • Heart failure affecting the right side of the heart (cor pulmonale).
  • A collapsed lung (pneumothorax). COPD can damage the lung's structure and allow air to leak into the chest cavity.
  • Sleep problems because you are not getting enough oxygen into your lungs.

Continued

Palliative care

Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have a serious illness. It's different from care to cure your illness. Its goal is to improve your quality of life-not just in your body but also in your mind and spirit. You can have this care along with treatment to cure your illness.

Palliative care providers will work to help control pain or side effects. They may help you decide what treatment you want or don't want. And they can help your loved ones understand how to support you.

If you're interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor.

For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.

End-of-life care

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.

A time may come when treatment for your illness no longer seems like a good choice. This can be because the side effects, time, and costs of treatment are greater than the promise of cure or relief. But you can still get treatment to make you as comfortable as possible during the time you have left. You and your doctor can decide when you may be ready for hospice care.

For more information, see the topics:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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.© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

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