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Capital & Coast DHB Respiratory Service

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD includes conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma. Generally the breathing tubes in the lungs become narrowed and the surrounding tissue and air sacs become damaged.  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 chest infections.
Emphysema is the gradual destruction of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs and therefore the lungs are not as good at transporting oxygen to the blood.  Emphysema cannot be cured, but can be managed through medication and lifestyle changes.


The first and most important treatment 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.
For more information on COPD see www.asthmanz.co.nz

This page was last updated at 3:28PM on September 16, 2019.