What is COPD?

COPD is a chronic lung disease brought on by occupational dust or chemicals, smoking or secondhand smoke, and exposure to air pollution.6 In some cases, people develop COPD due to genetic factors passed down through families.7 COPD includes two lung problems - chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Who can be impacted by COPD?

About 27 million people in the U.S. have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nearly half wait months or years before receiving a proper diagnosis.1

What are the symptoms?

Breathlessness is one of the symptoms of COPD but other common signs to look for include tiredness, a persistent cough which produces phlegm, chest infections and wheezing.2

Many people with COPD don’t realize the severity of their symptoms and attribute them to aging or being out of shape.2

For a full list of symptoms and to learn more about COPD, visit

Bridging communications among people with COPD, healthcare providers and caregivers

COPD 25% of patients

Even with these symptoms affecting their daily lives, people with COPD may be reluctant to share important information about how COPD affects them with their doctors or their caregivers such as family and friends. Even after diagnosis, many still downplay their symptoms.

COPD 9 out of 10

Without the full picture, a doctor may have trouble recommending the right treatment plan to people with COPD, which could lead to improper care. Caregivers also play an important role in supporting people with COPD on a daily basis and are instrumental when it comes to helping manage symptoms and ensuring that patients get the care they need.

Perspectives from the frontlines of COPD

The video stories below shed light on how people living with COPD may be able to better manage their condition when they have open lines of communication with their doctor and caregivers.


Candyce downplayed her COPD symptoms and how COPD was affecting her daily life to her doctors for years.

Candyce made the decision to stop letting the disease manage her and start managing her symptoms. “I pushed beyond my fears and uncomfortable feelings - of being judged or misunderstood - opened up to both my doctor and my family/support system so they became key players in helping me manage my COPD symptoms successfully.”

Communicating openly with her family and doctor helped Candyce develop a treatment plan and better manage her COPD symptoms to live a more active life.


"I felt nervous and ashamed to share details about my condition. I didn’t want to be judged because I had smoked for so long."


Mark experienced COPD symptoms for three years before he talked to his doctor. By the time he received his diagnosis, he was already at stage 3 (severe).

While it was difficult to share the information with his family, he can now lean on them when he needs support.

Mark also doesn’t shy away from sharing how his COPD symptoms affect his daily life. “When I talk with the pulmonologist, I tell them everything. To me, there's no point in hiding any of the symptoms. It's better to get them all out so that he understands everything.” He works with his pulmonologist to develop and follow a treatment plan to better manage his symptoms.


"The biggest thing I've learned about myself is I don't stop trying, I just keep going...I'm a little bit stronger than what I thought I was when it comes to the COPD."


After getting pneumonia and/or bronchitis annually, Ron received a COPD diagnosis. Ron works closely with his doctor, fills his days with his hobbies and takes solace and comfort in his family to live his life to the fullest, despite his COPD.


"The trust level between my physician and myself is very strong…I’ve communicated clearly with him and think that maybe we can find something new that will work."



1 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Prevalence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among US Working Adults Aged 40 to 70 Years. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)

2 American Lung Association. What Are COPD Symptoms? Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)

3 NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. COPD: Tracking Perceptions of Individuals Affected, Their Caregivers, and the Physicians Who Diagnose and Treat Them. (Accessed on 2018, November 12).

4 International Journal of COPD. Perception of symptoms and quality of life – comparison of patients’ and physicians’ views in the COPD MIRROR study. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)

5 Harris S. COPD and coping with breathlessness at home: a review of the literature. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)

6 Donesky D et al. Determinants of Frequency, Duration, and Continuity of Home Walking in Patients with COPD. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)

7 COPD Foundation. What causes COPD? Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)

8 Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Overview. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 2018, September 20)