Understanding COPD & Your Lungs

COPD GraphicWhen you smoke or inhale pollutants, the cilia (the hair-like sweepers) in your lungs become paralyzed and can’t move mucus out of your airways. When mucus can’t be moved, it causes your airways to become swollen and narrow. Air can’t pass as easily through the airways when that happens.

In healthy lungs, the lungs are elastic and are able to stretch and return to normal size. In COPD, over time, the lungs will lose their elasticity, get big and floppy, and make it hard for you to get air out.


  • Smoking
  • Secondhand Smoke
  • Long-term exposure to dust, fumes, or air pollution
  • Genetics


  • Each person is different but the common symptoms may include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough that won’t go away
  • Feeling tired, especially during exercise or daily activities
  • Tightness in chest
  • Wheezing


  • A recent chest X-Ray can pinpoint areas of damaged lung tissue
  • Pulmonary Function Testing measures lung capacity and airway obstruction to determine how well your lungs work
  • These tests may be done to help rule out other problems:
    • Arterial Blood Gas Analysis measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
    • Electrocardiography measure the electrical activity of the heart
    • Sputum Analysis detects a respiratory infection

Should I get tested?

Leaving symptoms misdiagnosed or untreated may cause them to worsen faster. Providing a proper diagnosis means you will receive the correct treatments and follow up monitoring.


There is not a cure for COPD; however, treatments are available to improve your quality of life.

  • Avoid smoking, it is never too late to quit
  • Medications are available to relieve symptoms by helping reduce the chest tightness and may help you cough up mucus easier
  • Additional oxygen may be prescribed to relieve symptoms
  • Antibiotics will treat lung infections
  • Pneumonia and Flu vaccinations are important to prevent complications
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation can improve strength
  • Eat healthy foods, exercise, and get enough rest