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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


COPD is caused by long-term exposure to substances that irritate the lungs, causing lung damage. In the United States, the majority of people who have COPD are smokers and former smokers. However, experts have identified other causes, such as exposure to:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Chemical fumes
  • Dust from the environment or workplace

Rarely, development of COPD is related to a genetic condition called alpha-1 deficiency. People with this condition have a low level of alpha-1 antritypsin (AAT), which is a protein made in the liver. Low levels of AAT make people more susceptible to smoke exposure and other lung irritants. COPD can worsen rapidly in people who smoke and have AAT deficiency.

Learn to Quit Smoking

COPD is only one of the many diseases and conditions that is caused or made worse by smoking. If you need help learning to quit, we can help.

Learn more about smoking cessation program>>

Contact Us

If you have or think you may have COPD, we urge you to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you don’t have a physician, and you’d like to make an appointment with someone who understands COPD and how to successfully manage it, you may do so by calling our Physician Referral Department at 1-877-926-4664. You may also request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateJune 6, 2011