7 Myths About COPD

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Breast X-ray
    A common (but misunderstood) disease.
    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious condition of the airways that affects millions of Americans. But many people don't know much about it. In fact, almost half of COPD sufferers have never been diagnosed. To better understand COPD, read on to learn the truth.
  • Woman in thought
    Myth #1: COPD is a man's disease.
    More than 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. Another 12 million have it but don't even know it. Among them? Both men and women. In fact, COPD is more prevalent in women than in men.
  • older woman coughing
    Myth #2: COPD and asthma are the same.
    Although COPD and asthma share similar symptoms—such as wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath—they are not the same condition. One key difference: COPD sufferers usually experience symptoms every day. And, unlike asthma, these symptoms do not have environmental or other specific triggers.
  • Man Having Chest Pains
    Myth #3: Breathlessness is a symptom of old age.
    Many people attribute breathlessness to just getting older. But breathlessness can occur with many health conditions and is a primary symptom of COPD. If you experience symptoms, don't ignore them. Talk with your doctor about being tested for COPD.
  • smiling senior man using exericse bike
    Myth #4: Exercise is a waste of breath.
    It may seem counterintuitive to exercise with COPD when you feel your best at rest. But exercising can actually help you build up your tolerance for more prolonged activity. To start, join a pulmonary rehabilitation program or take a daily walk.
  • Patient and doctor
    Myth #5: COPD can't be treated.
    COPD is not a hopeless condition. Although it can't be cured, treatment options are available that can improve your lung health and help you feel better. Some treatments include smoking cessation, medications, and oxygen therapy.
  • Smoking
    Myth #6: Kicking the habit won't help much.
    Quitting smoking doesn't cure COPD. But it can stop further damage to your lungs and improve your lung function with time. Plus, not smoking can make you feel better and reduce your risk for other serious health problems, such as heart disease and cancer.
  • confident senior woman in forest wearing jacket while hiking
    Myth #7: If I stay on the couch, I'll be fine.
    It's true that sitting on the couch can help you avoid COPD-related breathlessness and fatigue. But it's important to not let your disease keep you from living a normal, happy life. The more you do, the greater stamina you'll have for everyday activities.
7 Myths About COPD
  1. Shortness of Breath, American Academy of Family Physicians (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/shortness-of-breath.html);
  2. Asthma vs. COPD: Differences and Similarities, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/asthma-library/asthma-and-copd--differences-a...;
  3. How Does COPD Differ from Asthma? American Association for Respiratory Care (http://www.aarc.org/klein/versus.asp);
  4. Harms of Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting, National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation);
  5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among Adults Aged 18 and Over in the United States, 1998–2009, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db63.htm);
  6. Myths & Facts About COPD, Canadian Lung Association (http://www.copdhelp.ca/en/about_copd/myths_and_facts);
  7. How Is COPD Treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/treatment.html);
  8. COPD Home, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/copd/index.htm);
  9. What Is COPD? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/copd/what-is-copd/index.htm);
  10. What Is COPD? American Association for Respiratory Care (http://www.yourlunghealth.org/lung_disease/copd/index.cfm);
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Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 26
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.