What is COPD?

COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is a serious and devastating disease which is almost caused by smoking. More familiar terms like ‘emphysema’ and ‘chronic bronchitis’ are included within the broad category of COPD.

In COPD, damage has been caused to the airways in the lungs causing them to collapse and reduce in size, making it harder to breath and causing air to become trapped in the lung. It is a ‘chronic’ condition, meaning it will not go away, and it is also ‘progressive’, meaning that if you keep causing damage to your lungs (ie by smoking), it will get worse.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

COPD is a slowly developing disease, and so symptoms will come on ‘insidiously’ (without the patient noticing) and gradually get worse. The most common symptoms are breathlessness, chronic cough and increased mucous production. These symptoms can become very severe and make it difficult for the patient to perform daily activities like walking, climbing stairs or daily chores. Patients can also suffer from ‘exacerbations’, where symptoms suddenly get severely worse and may require hospitalisation for oxygen treatment. These can often be caused by chest infections.

COPD can be diagnosed by a doctor by a simple test called ‘spirometry’.

How is COPD treated?

While COPD cannot be cured, there are ways to relieve symptoms and to ensure they do not get worse.

By far the most important thing to do is to stop smoking. This can slow or stop the progression of the disease, and can reduce your risk of dying.

You may also be prescribed one or more puffers, which mostly work the same way as asthma puffers. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs can also be undertaken to help relieve symptoms.

Because chest infections can cause serious problems in patients with COPD, it is important to keep up with your vaccinations and to see your doctor whenever you get sick.

If COPD continues to progress, you may need more extreme treatment such as take-home oxygen tanks.

COPD is a very serious disease and can cause a serious impact on your quality of life, so it important to follow the advice of your doctor and engage with your treatment.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.


World Health Organization, 2018, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs315/en/. [Accessed 07 April 2018]

Lung Foundation Australia, 2014, COPD Fact Sheet, [ONLINE], Available at: https://lungfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/COPD-Chronic-Obstructive-Pulmonary-Disease.pdf [Accessed 07 April 2018]

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