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What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease? COPD Defined

by Shannon, April 22, 2019

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease? COPD Defined


Care Indeed specializes in providing hourly and live-in care for individuals and elderly clients in need of support and companion ship. Our mission is also to educate our client base and the community on how diseases and ailments affect the mind and body.

 This series on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD, is designed to help you – or your loved one – understand the basics of the disease while also learning coping skills for navigating COPD with grace. Care Indeed is committed to giving you the resources you need to find the care you deserve and need.

What is COPD?

 COPD is classified as a respiratory disease that impacts breathing. It is, unfortunately, a progressive condition that gets worse over time. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, it is easiest to understand the ins and outs of COPD by first learning how the lungs operate. In essence, the air that you breathe travels down your windpipe into the airways or bronchial tubes in the lungs. Bronchial tubes branch into smaller, thinner tubes dubbed bronchioles. Ultimately, the thousands of bronchioles bunch around the alveoli, classified as tiny round air sacs.

 When the air you breathe reaches the sacs, the oxygen travels through the air sac walls, depositing into the blood of the capillaries. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide gas is transported from the capillaries into your air sacs, a process known as gas exchange, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

 Because the air sacs are stretchy, each air sac fills up as you breathe, similar to a small balloon. However, when you exhale, the air sacs deflate. For a patient with COPD, less air travels in and out of the airways. This often occurs because:

  • The air sac walls are destroyed
  • The airways are clogged because they produce more mucus than usual
  • The air sacs and airways have lost their elasticity
  • The airway walls are thick and inflamed

What Are the Types of COPD?

While COPD is categorized as a respiratory illness, there are several forms of the disease. According to COPD Foundation, the following diseases are classified as forms of COPD:

  • Emphysema: This condition occurs when there is damage to the air sacs or alveoli, causing less oxygen to be absorbed into the blood.
  • Chronic Bronchitis: This condition occurs when there is damage to the bronchial tubes and cilia is no longer present to help move mucus up the tubes.
  • Refractory Asthma: This condition occurs when the airways tighten and swell and a patient does not respond to common asthma medications.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of COPD?

Signs and symptoms of COPD are not typically noticeable until the lungs have experienced significant damage. While the most common signs and symptoms of COPD include increased mucus production and a daily cough, according to the Mayo Clinic, patients may also experience the following:

  • Wheezing
  • Tightening of the Chest
  • Frequent Respiratory Infections
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Increased Shortness of Breath During Physical Activities
  • Chronic Coughing
  • Fatigue or Lack of Energy
  • Swelling in the Legs, Feet or Ankles
  • Unintended Weight Loss
  • Blueness of the Fingernail Beds or Lips


In extreme cases, some individuals with COPD may also experience exacerbations, where over a period of several days, the symptoms increasingly get worse.

 While smokers are most at risk for developing a form of COPD, it is possible for non-smokers to also develop the disease, according to the American Lung Association. Nearly 85 percent of COPD cases are attributed to cigarette smoking, but additional factors such as the environment can pose a risk factor. For instance, individuals who have long-term exposure to dust, fumes, chemicals, secondhand smoke and air pollution may be at risk for developing a form of COPD. In addition, according to the American Lung Association, a small percentage of individuals have developed COPD due to an Alpha-1 Deficiency. This is a genetic, inherited condition where your body is unable to produce Alpha-1 protein to protect your lungs.

How Can I Find the Support I Need?

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a form of COPD, you need resources, support and compassion to navigate the disease. Care Indeed professionals are here for you.


Support and care is essential as you cope with a COPD diagnosis. Care Indeed professionals are highly-trained to assist with mobility, hygiene, transportation and companionship regardless of your condition or disease. We offer local resources for our clients and their families to help you understand the level of care you need. In addition, our professional caregivers are available to help you with daily tasks to ease the transition when COPD progresses.


Life with any type of COPD is challenging and learning how to accept the challenge is the first step in improving your overall quality of life. While you may struggle with the changes as a patient, caregiver or family member, the support you need is only a click away.


Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need while living with COPD today