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Dr Paul Dawkins - Respiratory Physician

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

This term is used to describe lung disease where the breathing tubes become blocked and the surrounding tissue and air sacs inside the lungs become damaged. COPD includes conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma.  COPD is a long term and sometimes fatal disease that can be managed and slowed down. Smoking is the main cause of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

 

Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the main breathing tubes (bronchi) in the lungs, which results in the production of excess mucous (phlegm) and a reduction in the amount of airflow in and out of the lungs. In the early stages of chronic bronchitis, a cough usually occurs in the morning. As the disease progresses, coughing persists throughout the day.  There is often associated shortness of breath and an increased rate of chest infections.

 

Emphysema is the gradual destruction of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The alveoli are unable to completely relax.  As they become larger they are not as good at transporting oxygen to the blood.  Emphysema cannot be cured, but can be managed through medication and lifestyle changes.

 

Investigations
You may have some of the following tests before or after your clinic appointment:

 

chest X-ray, spirometry, lung function tests, CT chest.  The specialist will decide if you need any of these tests, depending on your symptoms and examination findings.

 

Treatment
There are ways to manage COPD.  The first and most important is to stop smoking if this applies to you.  There are exercises and dietary changes that can help maintain and improve fitness.  Medications include inhalers, although they are not used for everyone. If you have COPD it is a good idea to have the flu vaccination every year.

This page was last updated at 12:14PM on February 19, 2020.