There is no one definition of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It is often referred to as a “mixing bowl”,” grab bag” or “catchall” for various lung disorders.
Most frequently, it is described as a mixture of two disease states: chronic (obstructive) bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is most often the result of long time cigarette smoking.
What defines the main disease process in COPD is obstruction of the airways. This could be caused by thickening of the airways or by pressure on the outside walls of the airways.
Normally the lungs move air in and out to meet your body’s needs, but in COPD the flow of air is obstructed making it harder to breath, particularly with activity.
Commonplace and usually trivial illnesses such as the common cold can cause an acute worsening of symptoms in COPD and become debilitating within a short time. Furthermore, the heart sometimes overworks and fails under the stress of having to pump blood through badly damaged lungs.
The symptoms of lung disease are:
- shortness of breath
- excess mucus in the lungs
For some people, these symptoms are mild and do not cause serious breathing problems. For others, the symptoms can be serious enough to interfere with normal daily activities. Therapy is aimed at slowing the disease progression and controlling the symptoms.
Learn about Island Health's Respiratory Health Services.