Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Learn more and breathe better

COPD, comes with hard-to-handle symptoms. They include frequent coughing or wheezing, excess mucus or phlegm production, shortness of breath, and trouble taking deep breaths. A feeling of tightness in the chest is also common.

Over time, COPD makes it increasingly hard to breathe. Your lungs aren’t able to inhale the amount of oxygen your body needs. And they can’t get rid of the carbon dioxide your body produces. So left untreated, COPD can affect your entire body. It can lead to other chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, or stroke.

While it can be scary to live with, COPD can be managed! That’s why it’s important to heed the signs and symptoms early on—and see your doctor for help.

Child walking with father

Causes of COPD

Smoking is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD. But it’s not the only cause. In fact, there are many people who have COPD that have never smoked. Exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role.

When to call a doctor about your symptoms

If you experience increased coughing and wheezing or shortness of breath, you should talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider. Early detection of COPD may change its course and progression.

If COPD is suspected, a simple test is used to measure pulmonary or lung function. This test is called spirometry.

What to do after you’ve been diagnosed

If you are a smoker, take steps to quit immediately. Healthcare providers can offer advice. Ask them about smoking cessation products that might help you.

If you are diagnosed with COPD, doctors may create a personalized treatment program that teaches strategies to improve quality of life. They could also prescribe medication for coughing and wheezing. In advanced cases, you may need to use supplemental oxygen for relief.

If you are a Capital Blue Cross member diagnosed with COPD and are feeling overwhelmed, we can help. Our Care Management team is on standby with free educational resources and phone support to members with chronic conditions. Call 888.545.4512 today and speak with experienced nurses.


The information provided is meant for a general audience. Capital Blue Cross and its affiliated companies believe this health education resource provides useful information but does not assume any liability associated with its use.