Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)

Causes

Smoking is by far the leading cause of COPD. About 80% of people with COPD are current or former smokers. The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more likely you are to develop COPD.  Quitting smoking can greatly lower your risk of getting COPD. If you have COPD, quitting smoking can slow the disease. Quitting smoking is not easy and most people make several attempts before they are able to quit for good.  People who use a combination of medication and counseling or support groups are more likely to succeed. If you smoke, talk to your healthcare provider about help quitting.

Smoking causes COPD by exposing the airways and alveoli to irritating and toxic particles and gases in cigarette smoke. This causes irritation and inflammation of the airways and damages and destroys the alveoli. Besides smoking, other risk factors include: 

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke, including smoke from cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
  • Exposure to air pollution, chemicals, or industrial dust.
  • Frequent use of cooking gas or fires without proper ventilation.
  • Asthma.
  • Genetics. Rare genetic disorders can cause COPD. Other inherited factors can make people more likely to get COPD, especially when they also smoke. 

 

Last Updated August 2020