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November is National COPD Awareness Month, which makes it a good time learn more about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is the third leading cause of death by disease in the U.S., with more than 16.4 million people living with the disease, according to the American Lung Association.
This chronic inflammatory lung disease is caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, most often from cigarette smoke. People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension and depression. Having a chronic lung disease such as COPD also may put you at risk of severe illness and complications from COVID-19.
COPD symptoms often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time, particularly if cigarette smoke exposure continues. Signs and symptoms of COPD may include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, frequent respiratory infections and unintended weight loss.
Although COPD is a progressive disease that worsens over time, it is treatable. Living with COPD can be a challenge, though, especially as it becomes harder to catch your breath.
Here's what you need to know about COPD.