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WellStar Locations
Note: All hospitals have Emergency Rooms unless otherwise noted.
For more information on services or for a physician referral, call
Call 911 if you are on COPD medication and are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
  • Rapid increase in shortness of breath
  • Rapid increase in wheezing
  • Chest pain

COPD Overview

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that affect the lung’s airways and air sacs and make it difficult to breathe. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis, defined by a long-term cough with mucus; and emphysema, defined by destruction of the lungs over time. Most people with COPD have a combination of both conditions. COPD can’t be cured, but WellStar can help you manage COPD to improve your quality of life.

COPD Symptoms

COPD symptoms may develop slowly over time. They include:

  • Coughing with mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Tightness in the chest

These symptoms may appear years before airflow into and out of the lungs is impaired, and having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have COPD. It’s also possible to have COPD and not experience these symptoms.

Risk Factors

While the causes of COPD are not completely understood, the major risk factor for COPD is smoking. Other factors include:

  • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Exposure to pollution and dust.
  • A family history of COPD.
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), a severe form of acid reflux, can damage the esophagus and can cause or worsen COPD.
  • A rare genetic condition called alpha-l antitrypsin deficiency can contribute to lung damage that can lead to COPD.