Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your lungs don’t work properly. It may be that the walls of the small air sacs in your lungs have grown weak, due to emphysema, or that your airways (bronchi) are constantly swollen and inflamed, making it hard for air to get through, due to chronic bronchitis. Smoking of any type is the leading cause of COPD, though secondhand smoke can also raise your risk of COPD. In rare cases, pollution or exposure to fumes can also cause COPD.

Symptoms of COPD

The main symptom of COPD is shortness of breath. COPD can get worse over time, and you may develop symptoms like:

  • Coughing
  • Frequent cases of bronchitis
  • Wheezing
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Fatigue


Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for COPD, but your doctor can help you find ways to manage your COPD symptoms and breathe easier. If you have COPD and you are a smoker it is important that you quit so that your COPD does not get worse.

Treatments for COPD include:

  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Special exercises through pulmonary rehabilitation can help you learn how to breathe better and complete activities with your COPD. Physical therapists and respiratory therapists will help you exercise using treadmills, stationary bicycles or weights. Your exercise plan will be individualized to your needs. Pulmonary rehabilitation is helpful for most COPD patients.
  • Medications: Some medicines can help reduce how often you get lung infections. Other medicines, called bronchodilators, help relax your airways so it is easier to breathe. These medicines are taken through an inhaler to deliver help straight to your airways. Your doctor can suggest and prescribe medicines that may help your specific case of COPD.
  • Supplemental Oxygen: If your have moderate to severe COPD, you may need supplemental oxygen. Some people use oxygen all day while others only need it for a few hours a day. You receive oxygen through tubes in your nose that are connected to a tank.
  • Lung Surgery: In the most severe forms of COPD, your doctor may suggest lung surgery. Lung surgeries may be used to remove the parts of your lungs that are damaged to make it easier for the other parts of your lungs to work well. In rare cases, you may also receive a lung transplant.

Thoracic Surgery

The thoracic surgeons at Main Line Health offer comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for every type of thoracic condition, including lung and esophageal cancer.



Main Line Health’s lung health experts and pulmonology specialists treat a wide range of conditions that affect the lungs and respiratory tract.

Lung and Thoracic

Main Line Health experts use the latest technology to diagnose and treat all types of conditions affecting the chest, lungs and esophagus.