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About Us

The faculty and staff of the Northwestern Medicine Asthma & COPD Program are committed to improving care through research. Learn more about our program and about asthma and COPD below.

About COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is sometimes also called emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is a medical condition that can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and other symptoms. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants such as air pollution, chemical fumes or dust also may contribute to COPD.

Millions of people worldwide have COPD, and it is the third leading cause of death in the United States. There is no current cure for COPD, but medications can be used to treat some symptoms, such as shortness of breath and coughing. Most COPD patients are treated with a daily controller medication, usually in the form of a powder or spray that comes in an inhaler. Other COPD patients may be candidates for surgical treatments of their COPD. These include lung volume reduction surgery, in which small wedges of damaged lung tissue are removed to allow the remaining tissue to function better, and lung transplant, during which a diseased lung is removed and replaced with a healthy lung. However, many people with severe emphysema are not eligible for lung volume reduction surgery or lung transplant due to concerns regarding the risks associated with surgical procedures. 

About Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways characterized by wheeze, cough and shortness of breath. Asthma affects individuals of all ages, races and ethnicities. It is often, but not always, associated with allergies and worsened by many environmental exposures such as cold air, pollen, mold and animal dander. Asthma is a major cause of missed work and school.

Millions of people in the United States and worldwide have asthma. There is no current cure for asthma, but medications can treat symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Most asthma patients are treated with a daily controller medication, usually in the form of a powder or spray that comes in an inhaler, and a rescue medication.

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