COPD: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not one single disease but a medical term used to describe chronic lung diseases named chronic bronchitis and emphysema that cause limitations in lung airflow.
  • Chronic means persistent.
  • Bronchitis is inflammation of the bronchi (the airways of the lungs).
  • Emphysema is damage to the smaller airways and air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs.
  • Pulmonary means affecting the lungs.

Recovery Time

COPD is a long-term (chronic) illness. This can range from few weeks to several months depending upon the severity of the symptoms. There is no cure for COPD at present. The condition must be managed by medication or changes to lifestyle.


Diagnosis is done by physical examination and other tests which may be suggested include:
  • Spirometry
  • Sputum or Blood tests
  • X-rays and CT scans
  • Arterial blood gas analysis and oxymetry

FAQs prepared by doctor

1. What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined as a disease state characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. COPD includes emphysema, an anatomically defined condition characterized by destruction and enlargement of the lung alveoli; chronic bronchitis, a clinically defined condition with chronic cough and phlegm; and small airways disease, a condition in which small bronchioles are narrowed.

2. Is this disease genetic transmitted?
Although cigarette smoking is the major environmental risk factor for the development of COPD, the development of airflow obstruction in smokers is highly variable. Severe alpha 1 antitrypsin (alpha 1AT) deficiency is a proven genetic risk factor for COPD; there is increasing evidence that other genetic determinants also exist.

3. Can this lead to lung cancer?
Yes, COPD leads to lung cancer and one of the earliest sign is newly developed nail deformities i.e. clubbing in fingers.

4. What to do when one is suffering from such disease?
One shall avoid things that can irritate your lungs, such as smoke and air pollution or use an air filter in your home. Get accustomed with regular exercise to stay as strong as you can. Eat well so you can keep up your strength.

5. When shall one consult a doctor?
One shall consult a doctor if one has severe shortness of breath and frequent cough with or without mucus associated with chest tightness and extreme fatigue. Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds indicates a cyanotic stage which requires immediate consultation.

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