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What Is COPD and Who Is at Risk?

What Is COPD and Who Is at Risk?

Knowing the stats on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be overwhelming. If you’re wondering if you’re one of the millions who will be diagnosed with COPD, then we’re glad you’re here. 

At MDVIP at Premier Family Physicians, we believe that being educated is an important part of managing your health. Here, Dr. Pompeyo Chavez dives deeper into COPD to help you identify if you’re at risk. 

A closer look at COPD

COPD refers to a chronic inflammatory lung disease that obstructs airflow from your lungs. 

In healthy lungs, air travels freely down your windpipe and into your lungs through two large tubes called bronchi. Deep within your lungs, the tubes are divided multiple times, like the branches of a tree, into smaller tubes called bronchioles. These end in clusters of tiny air sacs called alveoli. 

Your alveoli have very thin walls of small blood vessels. Oxygen passes through these blood vessels and enters your bloodstream as you inhale, and carbon dioxide exits your body as you exhale. 

The bronchial tubes and air sacs in your lungs are incredibly flexible, which is crucial to your ability to breathe air in and out. If you have COPD, your lungs lose their elasticity, so they over-expand and trap air in your lungs when you try to exhale. 

Common side effects of COPD include difficulty breathing, mucus production, chest tightness, and wheezing. You may also notice that you’re short of breath during activity, have frequent respiratory infections, and lack of energy. 

Many with COPD experience episodes called exacerbations where their symptoms are suddenly worse than their normal, day-to-day symptoms. Exacerbations can last for several days. 

COPD typically includes conditions, such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which are both problems that contribute to your inability to breathe properly and distribute oxygen throughout your body. 

Risk factors for COPD

COPD can impact virtually anyone, but there are certain factors that may increase your risk. Here are the four most common risk factors for COPD.

Cigarette smoking

Smoking tobacco products is the most significant risk factor for COPD. With each year and each additional pack per day, your risk grows. The same goes for those exposed to secondhand smoke, as well as those who smoke pipes, cigars, and marijuana. 


If you have asthma — another chronic inflammatory airway disease — you may also be at an increased risk for developing COPD at some point. This is especially true if you’re also a smoker.

Exposure to harmful substances

Working in an occupation where you’re exposed to chemical fumes, vapors, and dust can irritate and inflame your lungs. Similarly, exposure to fumes from burning fuel used to cook or heat, especially in poorly ventilated homes, can contribute to your risk for COPD. 


Your risk for COPD may also be a matter of genetics. There is an uncommon genetic disorder called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which has been found to cause COPD. There are other cases where genetics make smokers even more susceptible. 

Preventing, managing, and treating COPD

Not only is COPD a burdensome health threat, but it can also lead to other complications, including heart problems, lung cancers, high blood pressure, and even depression. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent, manage, and treat COPD — and we can help. 

The best thing you can do is stop smoking as soon as possible. We offer smoking cessation services to help you get started and keep you motivated. We also guide you toward lifestyle changes that will help you avoid certain risks and help you lead a healthy, active lifestyle. 

We also offer comprehensive COPD treatments. Depending on your needs, we may recommend:

We walk alongside you every step of the way and become an essential part of your COPD team, providing you with the care and expertise you need to take control of your health. 

If you’d like more information, don’t hesitate to book an appointment online or call us at 512-262-4699 at our Bastrop, Texas, location.

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