Helping you catch your breath

When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) every breath can be a struggle. COPD refers to diseases that cause your airways to become damaged or blocked. These diseases include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. 

When you have emphysema, the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs develop “holes.” These holes trap air in your lungs and stretch out your lung tissue. This makes the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide difficult when you exhale. 

Symptoms and diagnosis

Know the symptoms and when to seek care

Smoking is one of the leading causes of emphysema. Air pollution is another. Usually the disease develops gradually. Symptoms include: 

  • Cough

  • Difficulty exercising  

  • Shortness of breath

If you have these symptoms, it’s important to see your healthcare provider. They may use breathing tests, imaging tests and a particular type of blood test to evaluate your symptoms.

Treatments and research

Learn about the ways we treat COPD

If you’re diagnosed with emphysema or COPD, we have several treatments to help. We can’t cure these conditions, but we can help you breathe better and slow their progression.

Treatments range from simple therapies to advanced surgeries. They include:

  • Clinical trials for COPD

  • Lung volume reduction surgery

  • Lung transplant

  • Medication

  • Outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation

  • Oxygen therapy

  • Smoking cessation to help you give up tobacco if you're a smoker

  • Valves for lung volume reduction

Spirometry testing updateChange to race-neutral reference equations
As part of our commitment to providing the highest quality care and ensuring health equity, we are making a change in our spirometry lab that may affect the interpretation of pulmonary function test results.

Patient support and services

More ways we can help

We have several resources that can help if you’re living with COPD.

Advanced Lung Disease Program

Our Madison-based Advanced Lung Disease Program brings the services of our lung doctors and thoracic surgeons together under one roof. Together, they evaluate and treat advanced lung disease and offer second opinions. They also use research to improve patient care.

Additional resources

Meet our team

Expertise for all your lung health needs

At UW Health, you get expert care. Our team includes experienced pulmonologists that manage your condition and make sure you get the right care at the right time.

Our providers

Nationally recognized care that helps you breathe easier

Pulmonary Medicine Service


How to find us

We provide care for COPD and emphysema through our pulmonary medicine clinics.