If you have difficulty exhaling, you may have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a group of lung diseases that are known for blocking airflow making it difficult for a person to breathe. Emphysema, chronic asthmatic bronchitis is two diseases in this category. Unfortunately, COPD is a leading cause of death and individuals with a long-term history of smoking are at high risk. The damage caused to your lungs by smoking can not be undone once you start to suffer from COPD and is responsible for the resultant difficulty in breathing.

The signs and symptoms of COPD vary from one person to the next. Typically all people with COPD experience more than one of the following symptoms:

Shortness of breath
Chest tightness
Chronic cough
Wheezing

Many people diagnosed with COPD were previously diagnosed with chronic asthmatic bronchitis or emphysema and some may even suffer from both of these diseases. Chronic asthmatic bronchitis is when a person has an increased mucus production, inflammation and narrowing of the airways which causes the person to cough and wheeze. A person with emphysema has damaged alveoli (tiny air sacs), which reduces the amount of surface area on the lungs in which to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. The alveoli walls are also weaker which may cause them to collapse during exhalation, trapping the air inside. This trapping of air causes the symptom of shortness of breath.

Adults exposed to air pollution, chemical fumes, dust, and tobacco smoke over a long time can be at risk for COPD. Another risk factor for COPD is age. COPD develops over a span of years with symptoms starting to appear around age 40 in some people. Genetics may plan a role in COPD because researchers suspect a rare genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is a cause of some of the cases of COPD.

Individuals diagnosed with COPD are susceptible to respiratory infections such as pneumonia, which can further damage the lungs and make it more difficult for them to breathe. Other complications for those with COPD are high blood pressure. If high blood pressure occurs this could put a strain on the right ventricle of the heart, which will then cause the legs and ankles to swell. COPD increases a person's risk for heart disease, heart attack, and depression. People became depressed because of the difficulty in breathing, inability to be physically active or to do activities that they did in the past. This can make a person extremely sad about life and about their health.

There is no cure for COPD but treatments can control the symptoms and improve breathing. It is imperative that if you are still smoking you quit. Treatment may include oxygen therapy, antibiotics to control infections, bronchodilators and inhaled steroids. Surgery may be necessary for those with severe emphysema when medications alone are not enough to control symptoms. In cases of sever emphysema when nothing else helps, a lung transplant is the last resort.

As you may have guessed living with COPD especially when it is advanced is very difficult. It can be challenging to complete daily living activities and the person will require assistance.

It is important that individuals with COPD control symptoms as much as possible, exercise as much as can be done on a regular basis, eat healthy foods, avoid smoke, receive regular vaccinations to prevent disease, follow-up with the doctor on a regular basis and avoid crowds and cold air so that the best possible health can be enjoyed.

If you're the care giver, it is important to become involved in a support group so you can share your feelings, become informed of new treatments and enjoys the fellowship of people who understand what you and the person you are caring for are going through because they know how tough it is.

If you would like to know more about asthma and it's remedies then click on ASTHMA AND TREATMENT below.