Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a very serious disease that, over time, makes it hard to breathe. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States and causes serious long-term disability and early death. More than 12 million people knowingly suffer from it but that number may be closer to 24 million due to the amount of people who don’t realize they have COPD.

COPD is caused by one or more health problems and includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The air flow in and out of the lungs is less than it should be, making it harder for the body to rid itself of carbon dioxide. As the disease worsens, shortness of breath makes it difficult to remain active.

The good news is that COPD can be prevented and treated, especially if it’s caught early. Smoking, air pollution and irritating fumes are the most common causes of COPD.


Symptoms include:

  • Constant coughing, sometimes called "smoker's cough"
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath during normal activity
  • Producing a lot of phlegm/mucus
  • Feeling like you can't breathe or take a deep breath
  • If you are at risk for COPD or displaying some of the above symptoms, see your physician.

Treatment includes:

  • If you are a smoker, the best treatment is to quit smoking.
  • Take all medications as prescribed by your physician. Doctors usually prescribe inhalers to open your airways and reduce swelling. Spacers are available to make the use of inhalers easier. You may also be advised to use a nebulizer, a machine that changes liquid medicine into a fine mist which makes it easier to inhale deep into the lungs.
  • People with severed COPD may need oxygen therapy to help with shortness of breath. You may only need oxygen sporadically, or you may need to use it all day or all night. Oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators are available from Franciscan; our knowledgeable staff will help you choose the right one for your lifestyle. Oxygen accessories are also available, depending on your needs.
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation is offered by St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center. This program teaches you how to manage your disease, monitors your exercise, and provides support.


COPD can severely impact your quality of life. You may find it difficult to perform your normal routine which affects you physically and mentally. It’s essential that people living with COPD are as active as possible to strengthen muscles and use less oxygen. Walkers, rollators, canes and power scooters can make that easier and help you regain your mobility. Rollators and walkers with a seat are a good way to take a break when you get winded. Simply stop, put on the brakes and sit down. Canes, on the other hand, are perfect for people who need just a little assistance. They take some of the strain off your muscles while walking. Power scooters and wheelchairs are a great option for COPD patients who don’t have the ability to walk well. If you’re on oxygen, Franciscan offers scooters and wheelchairs that accommodate your unit.