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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

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 UC San Diego Health – La Jolla
4520 Executive Drive (Suite P2)

 UC San Diego Health – Hillcrest
Medical Offices South

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a group of conditions that blocks airflow and makes normal breathing difficult. 

5 facts about COPD:

  1. It is the third leading cause of death in the nation.
  2. Two of the most common COPD conditions are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
  3. 12 million Americans currently have COPD, and approximately 12 million are undiagnosed.
  4. COPD typically occurs in people age 40 or older.
  5. Nine out of ten COPD-related deaths are due to smoking.

The experts at UC San Diego Health are committed to improving the quality of life of those living with COPD through a wide range of diagnosis and treatment options. In addition to high-level care, our team continues to pave the way for the development of better COPD therapy and treatments through extensive clinical studies.

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COPD Symptoms and Causes

COPD is considered a progressive disease, as symptoms get worse over time if left untreated. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it means that significant lung damage has already occurred.

Common signs of COPD:   

  • Coughing with or without  production of large amounts of mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Recurrent respiratory infections
  • Fatigue

COPD affects each person differently. Many people wait until severe lung function decline before seeking the help of a professional. Getting diagnosed and treated for COPD in its early stages is will help you maintain a high quality of life.

The cause of COPD is almost always smoking. Long-term exposure to irritants such as chemical fumes, secondhand smoke and air pollution can also be a factor. About one percent of cases is caused by a genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Complications of COPD

COPD can lead to a host of health conditions, many which are life-threatening. Conditions caused by COPD include:

Co-Existing Conditions

When another disease or disorder exists with COPD, it’s known as comorbidity. Comorbidities can make it difficult to effectively manage COPD, especially when other risk factors (e.g., tobacco smoking) are involved. Over 50 percent of people with COPD have one to two comorbidities.

Common comorbidities reported in patients who have COPD:

Overlap Syndrome

When COPD and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) exist together, it is known as overlap syndrome.

At UC San Diego Health, many patients who have COPD are also screened for OSA as the two conditions combined significantly increase risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality.

The most common treatment for overlap syndrome (in stable patients) is non-invasive positive pressure ventilation therapies (e.g., CPAP and BIPAP) and in some patients, oxygen therapy during sleep.

More Services

Lung Cancer Screening

If you've smoked at least a pack a day for 20 years and have COPD, an annual chest computed tomography (CT) scan can lower your risk of death from lung cancer. These low-dose CT scans minimize radiation exposure. 

Call and schedule your screening today at 855-355-5864.

Smoking Cessation

Whether you're ready to quit or just thinking about it, the smoking cessation program at UC San Diego can help. Learn more about smoking cessation or call 1-800-NO-BUTTS.

Airway Clinic

Our respiratory therapists and pulmonologists offer a weekly airway clinic at UC San Diego Health to help those living with obstructive lung disease.

The airway clinic includes:

  • Comprehensive trigger assessment
  • Smoking cessation strategies
  • Early referral to the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program
  • Intensive self-care
  • Inhaler education and technique
  • Peak flow education
  • Action plan development
  • Assessment testing