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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Read time: 5 mins
Last updated: 16th Sep 2020
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases including emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs) and chronic bronchitis (long-term inflammation of the airways).

COPD is characterised by persistent respiratory symptoms and limitation in the airflow, which is due to airway abnormalities, alveolar abnormalities or both. This is usually caused by significant exposure to noxious particles, gases or air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections can also be involved.

Symptoms of COPD include dyspnoea (shortness of breath or breathlessness), frequent coughing or wheezing and excess phlegm, mucus or sputum production. Patients with severe COPD may develop a number of extra pulmonary symptoms, such as fatigue, anorexia and weight loss which correlate with disease exacerbations due to bacterial and viral infections.

Whereas smoking cessation and increased physical activity can be used to treat the impact of COPD, bronchodilators and anti-inflammatory drugs therapy (whether used in combination or alone) are the main therapies available. Pulmonary rehabilitation and supplemental oxygen can also be beneficial.

To find out more about COPD visit our dedicated Learning Zone, which contains further information on treatment, medication and guidelines for this condition.