What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a general term used to describe chronic lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Asthma is considered to be a different type of lung disease than COPD, although patients may have both asthma and COPD. Your doctor may use any of these terms to diagnose and describe your type of lung disease.

What is COPD Chronic:
The disease is always present and worsens over time. Symptoms may take years to develop and your symptoms may become worse over time. Although there is no cure for COPD, you can do a lot to manage your disease and slow its progression.

Swelling (inflammation) and too much mucus in your airways can block (obstruct) your ability to breathe air in and out of your lungs. Medications prescribed by your doctor can help decrease inflammation and reduce mucus so that you can breathe easier.

The disease is located in your lungs. You may see a “pulmonologist”, a doctor specialized in care and treatment of lung diseases.

Your lungs have been damaged to the point where your doctor is able to diagnose COPD. At this point, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you, including smoking cessation, vaccinations, exercise and diet, and medications to help manage your symptoms.

COPD Flare-Ups are “Lung Attacks”

COPD Flare-Ups are Lung Attacks Patients with COPD describe feeling short of breath and having trouble “catching their breath”. When your COPD symptoms worsen beyond your normal daily patterns, you are having a “flare-up”, also known as a COPD exacerbation[2]. Some flare-ups are mild and you can manage them with your medications at home. But some flare-ups can be scary because breathing can become extremely difficult – and you may need to seek medical help by calling your doctor or even going to the hospital.

COPD flare-ups can cause further damage to your lungs, making it difficult for you to recover to your “normal” symptom levels. This is why COPD flare-ups can be thought of as “Lung Attacks”. Doctors offer many options to patients with heart disease in order to prevent heart attacks. It is just as important for patients with lung disease to prevent lung attacks. If you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, preventing a severe lung attack can help you live a healthier life and reduce your risk of death[1, 2].

COPD medications are drugs that you usually take through your mouth with a specialized inhaler device, or inhaler. Different medications treat different COPD symptoms, such as shortness of breath, cough, and mucus build-up. Your doctor may prescribe different medications that can work together to help manage your symptoms. When the medicine wears off, your symptoms may worsen. This is why it is important to use your inhaler every day as prescribed by your doctor.

Patients who continue having flare-ups even while taking their medications may wish to consider participation in a clinical trial. The AIRFLOW-3 Clinical Trial is investigating a procedure, Targeted Lung Denervation (TLD), which may have the potential to reduce the frequency and/or severity of COPD flare-ups.

1. Augusti AG, Vogelmeier C. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: 2020 Report. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, Inc. 2020.

2. Celli BR, Wedzicha JA. Update on Clinical Aspects of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The New England journal of medicine 2019; 381: 1257-1266.

This post is also available in: French Dutch