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What is it? Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a long-term lung disease. It is also called COPD. One type of COPD is emphysema (m-fuh-z-muh). Emphysema occurs when there is damage to the air sacs in the lungs. These air sacs pick up oxygen from the air. When air sacs are damaged, they cannot pick up enough oxygen. This may cause trouble breathing because less oxygen is getting to the lungs.
Causes: Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD. Some diseases that you are born with may cause emphysema. It may also be caused by working in mining.
Signs and Symptoms: The most common sign is trouble breathing which gets worse from year to year. You may have trouble breathing while resting with time. You may also cough up small amounts of sputum. People with emphysema may be thin, breathe through pursed lips, or have a barrel-shaped chest.
Care: You may need to be put in the hospital for tests and treatment to help your breathing. There is no cure for emphysema. But it can be treated with medicines and breathing treatments. Stop smoking and try to stay away from things that cause you trouble breathing. This may keep your emphysema from getting worse. It may help if you get shots to keep you from getting pneumonia (new-moan-yuh) and the flu.
You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about emphysema and how it can be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.