How tobacco can affect COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include cough, breathing difficulty, wheezing and mucus (sputum) production.

According to the World Health Organization, COPD is the third-leading cause of death worldwide and the main cause of COPD in developed countries is smoking.

Watch John Costello, M.D., a consultant pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare, located in London, discuss how smoking affects the lungs and causes COPD.

John Costello, M.D., Pulmonology Consultant, Mayo Clinic Healthcare London: Tobacco damages the airways, it damages the substance of the lungs, as well, and causes emphysema and is the major cause of COPD.

DeeDee Stiepan, moderator: Instead of lighting up, Dr. John Costello hopes people will consider quitting. It's not the only culprit.

John Costello, M.D.: Environmental smoke can also damage the lungs.

DeeDee Stiepan: It's more than a cough. And those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are at a higher risk for other diseases.

John Costello, M.D.: Lung cancer, from heart disease, coronary artery disease, and indeed, at the end stage of the condition, from heart failure.

DeeDee Stiepan: Bronchitis and emphysema are two forms of COPD and can occur together. Treatments may help. For some — an inhaler, called a bronchodilator, might be used to help with cough and shortness of breath. It works by relaxing constricted airways.

John Costello, M.D.: If the condition is severe, nebulized bronchodilators, the machine you plug in the wall and put in a rather larger dose.

DeeDee Stiepan: COPD, in many cases, can be prevented, says Dr. Costello. His advice?

John Costello, M.D.: Strongest possible advice here is to quit smoking, to avoid smoking, to avoid smoke in your environment.

DeeDee Stiepan: For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm DeeDee Stiepan.