What Is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease that can include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma and some forms of bronchiectasis.

COPD makes it hard for the patient to breathe because airway passages narrow becoming thick and inflamed, and the air sacs lose their elasticity.

Common COPD symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • A frequent cough
  • Increased production of mucus or sputum
  • Tightness in the chest

There is no cure for COPD, but early diagnosis accompanied by lifestyle changes can greatly impact the slowing of its progress.

Although millions have been diagnosed with COPD, many people who have the disease don’t even know they have it.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

COPD Risk Factors

The common risk factors for COPD are:

  • Smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Long-term exposure to irritants – air pollution, chemical fumes or dust
  • Genetic Factors

Sources: COPD Foundation and Mayo Clinic

Other Common Respiratory Diseases

In addition to COPD, there are many other common respiratory conditions and diseases including the following.

Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency:

A hereditary disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce the Alpha-1 protein that is designed to protect the lungs. The condition causes damage to the air sacs in the lungs and the cells of the liver which could lead to emphysema and liver cirrhosis.


The irreversible condition which causes damage to the lungs which result from the widening of the airways that become flabby and scarred.

Chronic Bronchitis:

Theinflammation of the bronchial tubes or airways, which bring air to and from your lungs.

Cystic Fibrosis:

This hereditary disorder produces thick mucus which can cause blockages which can drastically affect the function of lungs and other organs.


A condition in which the air sacs, or alveoli, in the lungs are damaged and enlarged which causes breathlessness for the patient.

Occupational lung diseases:

Are those diseases that scar lung tissue resulting from the patient having breathed in harmful dusts or fumes as part of their long-term exposure to silica, asbestos and coal dust through their employment.

Pulmonary Fibrosis:

Refers to a respiratory disease in which the lung tissues have been scarred over time and have been become thick and stiff. Causes could originate from medications, exposures, or underlying diseases of the autoimmune system of the patient.

Sleep apnea:

Is a condition that affects breathing while asleep – reducing the airflow which causes intermittent dips in the amount of oxygen in the blood and disturbs sleep. Many times the individual with sleep apnea unaware of their night-time breathing difficulties.

Sources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Johns Hopkins Medicine