What is COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that cause inflammation and airflow obstruction of the lungs.

The two most common conditions that contribute to COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.


Exact symptoms depend on the specific lung disease, as well as the severity (mild, moderate, severe, very severe), and how early or long the disease has progressed.

However, common COPD symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Mucus production
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Fatigue


The cause of COPD is usually due to long-term exposure and breathing in of harmful substances.

The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoke; making long-time smokers and former smokers the most common people to develop COPD.

Other causes:

  • Poorly ventilated areas with harmful substances
  • Chemical fumes
  • Certain dust (metals, coals, etc.)


COPD is not contagious. It’s caused by long-term exposure to irritants and harmful substances, so it can’t pass on from person to person.


It’s common for COPD to be misdiagnosed, and mistaken for a different issue.

There isn’t a particular test for COPD, but is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms, physical exam, family history, and history of exposure to lung irritants.

A few different tests may be run to properly diagnose COPD.

Common tests include:

  • CT scan
  • Chest x-ray
  • Lung function tests


Treatment for COPD can depend on the severity and progression of the disease. In mild cases, quitting smoking is usually the most common way to treat it.

In more advanced stages of COPD, medications, inhalers, or oxygen tanks may be needed.

When to See a Medical Doctor

If you have any of the sign and symptoms of COPD, it runs in your family, or you have a history of being exposed to harmful substances or lung irritants, speak to a doctor.

They’ll be able to run tests to determine if it’s COPD, and be able to recommend the best treatment options for you.