Let's Talk About COPD

We’ve got the doctor-approved scoop on the causes, symptoms, treatments, and a jillion other facts and tips that can make life with this lung condition easier.

    Our Pro PanelCOPD

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in COPD to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Nereida A. Parada, M.D. headshot.

    Nereida A. Parada, M.D.Associate Professor of Medicine, Clinical Lead for Asthma and COPD

    Tulane School of Medicine, Tulane Asthma Center
    New Orleans, LA
    Paul Andrew Reyfman, M.D. headshot.

    Paul Andrew Reyfman, M.D.Assistant Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care

    Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
    Chicago, IL
    Byron Thomashow, M.D.  headshot.

    Byron Thomashow, M.D. Professor of Medicine, Co-Founder and Senior Medical Advisor

    Columbia University, COPD Foundation
    New York, NY
    Lung-shaped tree half on fire
    Special Report

    The Truth About COPD & Climate Change

    If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it gets harder to breathe the hotter and more humid it gets. And thanks to climate change, the impact of those heat waves is only getting worse. We dig into the science and help you stay safe.

    Frequently Asked QuestionsCOPD

    Why does COPD affect more women than men?

    There’s no one reason. In the 1960s, the tobacco industry went after women, which converted a generation of smokers. Estrogen may also make the lungs more susceptible to damage. It may also be that women are more likely to see a doctor when symptoms arise, so it’s possible that more men are out there living with undiagnosed COPD than women.

    Does dairy make COPD worse?

    Milk may cause phlegm to thicken, potentially problematic because COPD can damage your cilia—little “arms” that line the bronchus and move mucus out of the lungs. Plus, COPD patients tend to produce more mucus already, and can have difficulty coughing it up. However, dairy does contain important nutrients like vitamin D and protein. Ask your doctor about dairy in your diet.

    Can I use e-cigarettes or a vape instead of smoking?

    Unfortunately, no. These have not been around long enough to get a full picture of potential side effects and what they do to the body, but studies already show evidence that these activities are harmful. If you're trying to quit cigarettes, the new smoking cessation aids that are on the market are much better than they were 10 years ago.

    Several members of my family have COPD. Is it genetic?

    Maybe. About 1% of people diagnosed with COPD have a gene variation that causes low levels of alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAt), a protein that helps protect the lungs. Environmental causes are also possible. Do people in your family smoke? Are they in the same industry, exposing them to the same chemicals? Familial patterns can matter just as much as genetics.

    Marjorie Korn

    Marjorie Korn

    Marjorie Korn is a health, medicine, and features writer based in New York City. She is also a Narrative Medicine instructor at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.