Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is COPD?

COPD means Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is a term that covers two types of chronic (long-term) diseases where the airways (breathingtubes) in the lungs become swollen and partly
blocked. COPD gets worse over time. It cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed.

COPD consists of two major breathing diseases:

  • emphysema
  • chronic bronchitis

Emphysema damages the tiny alveoli (air sacs) at the tips of your lungs. Normally these air sacs stretch like balloons as you breathe in and out. Emphysema makes these air sacs stiff . Because they cannot stretch, air gets trapped inside them. This makes it diffi cult for you to breathe in and makes you feel tired.

Chronic bronchitis makes your airways red, swollen and irritated. Glands in your airways make extra mucus (phlegm), which blocks some air from passing through. This makes you cough, cough up mucus and feel short of breath. Many people with COPD have both of these diseases.

Causes of COPD

Smoking is the number one cause of COPD.

Other causes include:

  • A rare genetic disorder called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Air pollution (dust or chemicals)
  • Repeated lung infections during childhood
  • Severe asthma
  • Asthma combined with smoking

This page was updated November 2019.

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Page Last Updated: 19/11/2019