What is it?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an obstructive progressive lung disease, caused by inflammation of the pulmonary cells. This disorder obstructs the airflow from the lung and is expressed in shortness of breath, cough, sputum production and wheezing. COPD patients experience exacerbations, which are episodes when their symptoms worsen. Usually, this condition is seen in heavy smokers or people who have been exposed for a long time to gases or particulate matter. In people who suffer from COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis may contribute to the condition. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes lining- the tubes that carry the air from the alveoli to the lungs. Emphysema is when the smallest bronchi are damaged and destroyed. Risk factors for COPD is exposure to tobacco use, asthma, occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals, exposure to fumes and genetics- in about 1% of COPD patients, it is caused by a genetic condition called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency- which is a protein that helps protect the lung.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Chronic obstructive lung disease

Signs & symptoms

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms may include shortness of breath, cough, sputum production, wheezing, chest pain, recurrent respiratory infections, fatigue, weight loss, and leg edema. COPD complications may include heart disease, lung cancer, and pulmonary hypertension.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) diagnosis is based upon signs and symptoms of the patient, medical history and physical examination. A pulmonary function test to test the amount of air inhaled and exhaled, may be done, to prove an obstructive problem. Chest X-ray or CT scan can show emphysema and rule other conditions. Arterial blood gas can measure the quality of gas exchange.
Genetic testing can look for alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, if suspected.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment includes avoiding the exposure to tobacco or other irritants. Medications for COPD include bronchodilator- either short or long acting, inhaled corticosteroids, or a combination of these. Other medications include phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors- which decreases the airway inflammation, theophylline- that improves breathing symptoms and prevents exacerbations, and antibiotics to treat respiratory infections. Oxygen therapy may help the patient feel better and a pulmonary rehabilitation program is also suggested. For people who suffer from severe emphysema, surgery might be an option. A lung transplant can also be suggested for patients who meet certain criteria.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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