Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disorder, or COPD, is a lung condition in which it becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. In COPD, the air sacs present in the lungs lose their ability to stretch. The airways thicken, get inflamed and become clogged with mucus, all of which obstruct breathing.

Since information surrounding this disease is limited, we separate six commonly believed myths from facts.

Myth 1: COPD Is Rare

Fact: COPD is the fourth leading cause of deaths in the US. Since COPD can stay silent for years, it often goes undiagnosed. If statistics are to be believed, about 24 million Americans have COPD—and half of them aren’t even aware of it.

Myth 2: Only Smokers Get COPD

Fact: While smoking is the main reason for developing COPD, it is not the only cause. Not everyone who has COPD was, or is, a smoker. Certain environmental and genetic factors such as air pollution, exposure to dust and chemicals (such as vapours, irritants, and fumes) also increase the risk of developing COPD.

Myth 3: COPD Causes Irreversible Lung Damage

Fact: It is difficult to reverse damage caused to the lungs by COPD, but it is possible. Incorporating healthy changes in your lifestyle like smoking cessation, proper diet and exercise can help alter the course of the disease.

Myth 4: COPD Is An Old Man’s Disease

Fact: Most people diagnosed with COPD are in their 50s or 60s, but this doesn’t mean that COPD only affects older adults. A genetic form of COPD, caused by an enzyme deficiency (alpha-1-antitrypsin), can point to a much earlier onset of the disease (in the 30s or 40s).

Myth 5: There Is No Treatment For COPD

Fact: The damage caused to the lung tissue cannot be reversed, but you can slow its progression down with proper treatment and incorporating healthy changes in your everyday life.

Myth 6: COPD Patients Should Not Exercise

Fact: Shortness of breath, one of the main symptoms associated with COPD, can make strenuous physical activity difficult. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to bid adieu to your exercise routine. If your workout is intense, you may want to tone it down. Experts believe that physical therapy plays an important role in COPD treatment. Regular breathing exercises, along with those that strengthen the muscles, can help reduce demand on the lungs.

Early diagnosis and treatment is key to successfully managing COPD. Reading more about the condition, connecting with other COPD patients, and staying positive goes a long way in improving your quality of life.