COPD Overview



Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a scary-sounding term used to describe a certain group of lung diseases. Let’s break it down to better understand what it means:


  • The term “chronic” means that the condition cannot be cured as the damage to the lungs has been done. However, this does not mean that it cannot be managed! With a proper treatment plan, you can improve the symptoms of your condition and limit the impact that it has on your life. It is also important to understand that COPD progresses over time. This means that the condition is likely to get worse. It is possible to slow down, and potentially even stop, the progress of the disease with proper adherence to your treatment plan.


If you are not following your treatment plan, your symptoms and level of functioning are likely to get worse.


  • The term “obstructive” is referring to the fact that COPD involves blockage of the airways. This makes makes it more difficult for air to move in and out of your lungs. It will feel more difficult to breathe.  When it is severe, living with COPD has been described as feeling as though you are breathing through a straw.
  • “Pulmonary” is a fancy medical word for the lungs.


The symptoms of COPD have the potential to decrease the amount of physical activity that you can tolerate. The symptoms are:

  • dry or productive coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • tight feeling in the chest
  • fatigue


People with COPD are also more likely to get chest infections, getting sick more often than others. At first, it might be difficult to walk/run as far or as quickly as you could before. As the disease gets worse, you might even struggle to do everyday tasks, such as making the bed, or walking to your car.

COPD could even limit your breathing so much that you need to have supplemental oxygen on a day-to-day basis. You might need to have an oxygen tank at home and use an oxygen mask for all or most of the day. 


The best way to limit future lung damage and prevent your copd from limiting your enjoyment of life, is to follow your treatment plan correctly.


The medication that your doctor prescribes can help to improve symptoms and slow down disease progression. In addition to medication, there are other things that you can do to help manage your condition. Stopping smoking should be a priority as it will worsen symptoms and contribute to further damage.


Physical activity can help to increase your ability to carry out activities without becoming tired or short of breath. This means that your level of functioning can improve, and you can enjoy a better quality of life. Try to pick something that you enjoy and remember to exercise at a level that is challenging but tolerable. Usually 20-30 minutes/day of aerobic activity, 5 days a week at a moderate intensity is advisable. Speak to your doctor if you need help with implementing these lifestyle changes.




Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among adults--United States, 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2012; 61:938

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