What is COPD?

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Commonly known as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a term to describe a group of lung conditions that make it difficult to empty air out of your lungs because the airways have been narrowed. It is termed as chronic as it is a long term condition and it will not go away.

Two of these conditions are persistent bronchitis and emphysema which may actually occur together.

  • Bronchitis means the airways are inflamed and narrowed. People with bronchitis often produce sputum, or phlegm.
  • Emphysema affects the air sacs at the end of the airways in your lungs. They break down and the lungs become baggy and full of holes which trap air.

Your airways are lined by muscle and elastic tissue and if you have healthy lungs the tissue between the airways acts as packing and pulls the airways to keep them open. With COPD the airways are narrowed and this is because:

  • the lung tissue is damaged so there is less pull on the airways
  • the elastic lining of the airways flops
  • the airway lining is inflamed

It is really important for people to get early diagnosis as although there are treatments available to help you breath more easily, the treatments cannot reverse the damage that has already occurred in your lungs.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

The symptoms of COPD may be present at all times or may occur or get worse when you have an infection or breathe in smoke or fumes. Symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath easily when completing everyday tasks such as walking or housework
  • Having a persistent cough
  • Wheezing when the weather gets cold
  • Producing more sputum or phlegm than normal.

If your GP or a private GP/doctor believes that you have COPD they will arrange for a series of diagnostic tests to be completed. Once diagnosed they may involve other specialist health professionals such as physiotherapists, dietitians or occupational therapists to help you with the management of your symptoms. Treatment may also include medication, oxygen, non-invasive ventilation or surgery.

The above information has been sourced from https://www.blf.org.uk/


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