Fighting for each breath is only part of the struggle for those living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Learn how people’s lives are affected by COPD and what can be done to manage it.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, makes breathing hard for the 16 million Americans who have been diagnosed with COPD. Millions more have COPD but have not been diagnosed and are not being treated. Some symptoms of COPD are frequent coughing or wheezing, excess phlegm or sputum, and shortness of breath. Adults with COPD are more likely to be unable to work and have trouble with daily activities.1 These problems are even worse for those who smoke and who aren’t physically active.1 If you have COPD, there are things you can do to make life easier.
The Impact of COPD
Having COPD can greatly affect your day-to-day life:
- 1 in 4 adults with COPD say they are not able to work.1
- Among adults who are employed, COPD may cause them to miss work.2
- Half of adults with COPD say they limit their activities because of health problems.1
- More than 1 in 3 adults with COPD have trouble walking or climbing stairs.1
- Nearly 1 in 4 adults with COPD say they need to use special equipment for health problems.1
- Medical costs, such as from visits to the doctor or hospital, are higher for adults with COPD than those without COPD.2
What You Can Do
There are things you can do to make living with COPD easier:
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, the most important part of your treatment is to quit smoking. Learn how to quit.
- Ask about pulmonary rehabilitation. Pulmonary rehabilitation (or “pulmonary rehab”) is a personalized treatment program that teaches you how to manage your COPD symptoms to improve quality of life. Plans may include learning to breathe better, how to conserve your energy, and advice on food and exercise.
- Take your medications. Symptoms such as coughing or wheezing can be treated with medication.
- Avoid lung infections. Lung infections can cause serious problems in people with COPD. Certain vaccines, such as flu and pneumonia vaccines, are especially important for people with COPD. Learn more about vaccination recommendations.
- Wheaton AG, Cunningham TJ, Ford ES, Croft JB. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, employment, and activity limitations—United States, 2013. MMWR. 2015;64(11):289-295. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6411a1.htm
- Ford ES, Murphy LB, Khavjou O, Giles WH, Holt JB, Croft JB. Total and state-specific medical and absenteeism costs of COPD among adults aged >18 years in the United States for 2010 and projections through 2020. Chest. 2015;147:31-45.
- CDC’s COPD Website
- COPD: Learn More, Breathe Better
- COPD Foundation’s COPD 360 Social: Connect with a supportive network of patients, caregivers, and lung health professionals through www.copd360social.org. The COPD360social platform provides free educational materials, interactive Q&A with patients and respiratory experts, event information, and more. COPD360social: take action today to breathe better tomorrow.
- Page last reviewed: April 26, 2018