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Reviewed 11/8/2021

COPD: True or false?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can cause disability and even death. But what exactly is COPD, and how does a person get it? Test your own knowledge, and learn the facts about this common condition.

True or false: COPD is a group of diseases that cause difficulty breathing.

True. COPD affects the airways—the tubes that carry air in and out. The symptoms, which include shortness of breath and coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, can make it difficult to do basic tasks like light housework.

True or false: Cigarette smoke not only makes COPD worse, but also it can cause COPD.

True. Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of COPD. Smoking cigarettes, a pipe or cigars can cause COPD. Even secondhand smoke, which is smoke in the air from other people smoking, can irritate the lungs and cause COPD or make it worse.

True or false: COPD can be cured if a person is under the care of a doctor and treated with the right medication.

False. There is no cure for COPD. However, you can prevent or slow the progression of the disease if you don't smoke or quit smoking. Also, people with COPD should try to avoid secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes and dust. A doctor may provide further treatment options, such as medication or oxygen therapy.

True or false: Smoking cigarettes and being exposed to secondhand smoke are the only ways you can get COPD.

False. While cigarette smoke is the biggest risk factor for COPD, other factors include being exposed to air pollution and working with chemicals, dust and fumes. Also, COPD can come from having a genetic condition called Alpha-1 deficiency or a history of respiratory infections as a child. It is not a disease you can catch from someone else.

True or false: You can have COPD and not know it.

True. Millions of people in the U.S. have COPD and don't know it. COPD develops very slowly, so it's important to report symptoms like persistent coughing and shortness of breath to your doctor. Your doctor can perform a simple breathing test called spirometry to measure airway function.

A disease of the lungs can be very serious, even deadly. So if you're experiencing any chronic coughing or trouble breathing, it's important to have your doctor check these symptoms out.

Learn more about lung health

Sources: American Lung Association; American Thoracic Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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