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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that can interfere with normal breathing. Nearly 13 million Americans suffer from COPD, according to the American Lung Association, and 24 million U.S. adults have evidence of impaired lung function, indicating an under diagnosis of COPD. It is also the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
The causes of COPD are not fully understood, but the most prevalent risk factor of COPD is cigarette smoking, the American Lung Association said. Nearly 80 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking. Other causes such as air pollution and occupational exposures may play a role, especially when combined with cigarette smoking. Heredity may also be a factor in some patients' emphysema and is important in a rare form due to alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency.
The two most common conditions of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Patients with chronic bronchitis usually have a cough and sputum production for many years before they develop shortness of breath. Patients with emphysema usually have shortness of breath and develop a cough and sputum during a respiratory infection, or in the later stages of the illness.