Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is an umbrella term used for multiple lung diseases that restrict breathing. COPD refers to a group of progressive lung conditions including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma.

Symptoms of COPD include:

  • breathlessness after exertion
  • breathlessness on minimal exertion or even at rest (severe cases)
  • wheezing
  • coughing and/or coughing up sputum (mucus or phlegm)
  • fatigue
  • cyanosis – blue tinge to the skin caused by insufficient oxygen
  • increased susceptibility to chest infections.

There is no cure for COPD and the damaged airways don’t regenerate, although there is evidence to suggest that early diagnosis and treatment can help delay disease progression and improve quality of life.

Some of those treatment options include pulmonary rehabilitation (activity/exercise, breathing techniques and health education on COPD), bronchodilator medication and oxygen therapy (in more severe cases).

It can also help to make lifestyle changes that assist you in managing your lung condition. Those changes can include quitting smoking, following a COPD action plan, eating a healthy diet, keeping hydrated and avoiding smoky or dusty environments.  

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned, you should visit your doctor. Your doctor will use spirometry, to test the function of your lungs by measuring how much air you can inhale, how much you can exhale and how quickly you can exhale.

Resources regarding chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: