Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects 24 million people worldwide. It's a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. People with COPD need to make a continual effort to manage their condition and slow it from getting worse. They also usually need to take daily medication to keep their symptoms under control and continue doing the activities they enjoy.

COPD includes a number of conditions that cause narrowing of the airways in the lungs: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and some kinds of bronchial disorders. Some people with COPD also have asthma. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, but other things that irritate the lungs, like air pollution and dust, also can cause this condition or make it worse.

Warning signs

Common symptoms of COPD include being out of breath often and for a long time, coughing a lot, wheezing or a feeling of tightness in the chest. If you have any of these symptoms often, check with your doctor.

Daily management

If you have COPD, pay close attention to the air around you. Avoid smoke, dust, fumes and chemicals, all of which can irritate your lungs.

Keep track of your symptoms and what has helped you (or not) so you know what to talk about with your doctor.


Most people with COPD take medications. Some COPD prescription drugs are used for daily maintenance. They help control the condition over time. Others work quickly to give you relief when you are breathless.

Many medications can treat COPD. It may take time for you and your doctor to find the medicine or combination of medicines that work best and have the least side effects for you.

COPD gets worse over time, so it's important that you visit the doctor at least once a year. Your health and well-being depends on having a treatment plan that meets your changing needs.

Cost savings

Different COPD prescription drugs are often covered at different costs to you under your health insurance plan. Some medications will cost you less and others will have higher out-of-pocket costs. All the covered drugs are well researched. Many have a long track record of working well and being safe. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about your prescription drug options.

Published on March 13, 2015.

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