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Research Topic: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The disease is increasingly common, affecting more than 11 million Americans, and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

COPD gets progressively worse over time and can cause serious long-term disability and early death. Current treatments can slow the progress of the disease and help relieve symptoms, but there is no cure.

With COPD, the airways in your lungs become inflamed and thicken, and the tissue where oxygen is exchanged is destroyed. The flow of air in and out of your lungs decreases. When that happens, less oxygen gets into your body tissues, and it becomes harder to get rid of the waste gas carbon dioxide. As the disease gets worse, shortness of breath makes it harder to remain active.

Although the major risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking, there are other important risk factors such as air pollution and genetics. Many questions are still unanswered about how COPD develops and progresses. The American Lung Association is funding a variety of approaches to research into the mechanisms of COPD. By gaining new insights into the disease, researchers can develop new therapies to better treat and eventually cure COPD.

    Page Last Updated: December 17, 2018

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