What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the name for a group of diseases affecting the lungs which are; chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive airways disease and emphysema. Typical symptoms experienced with COPD are:

- a persistent cough with phlegm
- breathlessness during exercise
- recurrent chest infections

COPD is mainly caused by smoking. The chances of you developing COPD increases due to the amount you smoke and how long you have been smoking. Smoking irritates and inflames the lungs and causes them to scar and this inflammation leads to irreversible changes on the lungs. The walls of the airways thicken producing more mucus. Damage to the air sacks cause the lungs to loose their elasticity causing emphysema. Smaller airways also become narrowed and scarred causing breathlessness accompanied with the cough and phlegm associated with COPD. In some rare cases COPD can be caused by the inhalation of fumes or dust, air pollution and genetic disorders.

Who is affected?

It is believed that there are over 3 million people living with this disease in the UK and the majority of these cases have not been diagnosed. This is due to people dismissing their symptoms as a 'smokers cough' without looking into their problems further.
COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK. Most people are not diagnosed until later on in life however, symptoms can occur around 35 years of age. COPD is more prominent in the male population however female rates are continually increasing.

It is important to have yourself diagnosed as soon as possible with COPD, in order to slow down the deterioration of the lungs with treatment. You should contact your GP as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed previously in the article.

Unfortunately the damage already made to the lungs cannot be reversed. However there are ways in which to slow down the deterioration of COPD, and stopping smoking is a very important part in this process. Respiratory inhalers can help with the breathing process and pulmonary rehabilitation also helps to increase the amount of exercise in which your body is capable of doing. Surgery is only available for a small amount of people with COPD.

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Facts and figures

"It is believed that there are over 3 million people living with this disease in the UK and the majority of these cases have not been diagnosed."
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