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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in over 16s: diagnosis and management

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Last updated:25th Jul 2019

This guideline covers diagnosing and managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis). It aims to help people with COPD to receive a diagnosis earlier so that they can benefit from treatments to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and keep them healthy for longer.  

COPD is characterised by airflow obstruction that is not fully reversible. The airflow obstruction does not change markedly over several months and is usually progressive in the long term. COPD is predominantly caused by smoking. Other factors, particularly occupational exposures, may also contribute to the development of COPD. Exacerbations often occur, where there is a rapid and sustained worsening of symptoms beyond normal day-to-day variations.

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