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Smoking is the most common cause of COPD.
The lining of the airways becomes inflamed and permanently damaged by smoking. The more you smoke and longer you have smoked, the greater the risk of having COPD. Once you give up smoking, your chance of getting COPD gradually reduces. If you’ve already got it, giving up helps your breathing and the rate at which your lungs decline slows down.
A less common cause of COPD is long term exposure to certain types of dust, such as coal dust, and chemicals at work. The role of air pollution in the development of COPD is being investigated. Some people, less than 1%, have been shown to have a genetic predisposition to developing COPD because they can’t produce a protein that protects the lungs.
Symptoms, which are often mild at first, include:
Symptoms often come and go and so there is a tendency to brush them off, particularly if they occur in cold weather or after a cold.
It is important not to dismiss a persistent cough as ‘just a smokers’ cough’ or brush off breathlessness as due to cold weather or being unfit. The sooner lung disease is diagnosed and treatment begins the better the outcome.
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