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Adrian Harrison - Respiratory Physician

Private Service, Respiratory

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is one of the terms used to describe the condition in which the main problems are:
  • Narrowed breathing tubes - either from asthmatic bronchospasm or from permanent scarring of the breathing tubes; and
  • Emphysema - in which the walls between air sacs break down, so the lung tissue eventually looks like a collection of soap bubbles rather than a fine honey-comb.
  • Chronic bronchitis may or may not be part of the picture. This component is characterised by persistent production of sputum. 
The term COPD covers a wide range of severity: from mild to very severe. Breathlessness on exertion, cough and sputum are the main symptoms. Recurrent chest infections can occur, setting off severe attacks of breathlessness. 
 
As with asthma, there can be a number of factors which 'drive' COPD, causing troublesome symptoms. I work with people to identify these factors and sometimes we uncover conditions that can be brought under excellent control. Sometimes lung function tests, a CT scan or even heart tests are needed. Every person is different. It's always worth trying to get the very best out of your breathing equipment. 
 
Treatment
There are usually several aspects to managing COPD.  Being close to your ideal weight is always an advantage. Doing as much exercise as the condition allows and having the right calorie intake are important. Being very underweight can be as bad as being very overweight.  
 
There are a variety of medications and devices to deliver them. Making sure that doses of inhaled medications actually get to the airways is crucial. Sometimes it takes time to identify the best medication and delivery system.
 
Identifying and controlling factors that 'drive' the COPD is also important. This is part of my job. Finally, flu vaccination every year is recommended. When COPD is accompanied by frequent chest infections, pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended.

This page was last updated at 6:44PM on December 16, 2021.