Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

In 80-90% of cases, it is caused by smoking. Other causes of COPD can include:

  • genetic reasons (alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency)
  • occupational dusts and chemicals
  • second hand smoke
  • frequent lung infections as a child
  • wood smoke and other biomass (animal dung, crop residues) fuel used for cooking. 

COPD develops over time. In most cases, COPD is diagnosed in people over 40 years of age. Someone with COPD may not realize that they are becoming more short of breath until it becomes very hard to do simple tasks like walking up stairs. When you have COPD, your lungs are obstructed or blocked, making it hard to breathe.

  • In chronic bronchitis, your airways become swollen and can be filled with mucus, which can make it hard for you to breathe.
  • In emphysema, the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs are damaged which can make it hard for you to breathe.
References: 

This page was reviewed on October 4th, 2014 by members of the Canadian Thoracic Society's COPD Clinical Assembly.

Page Last Updated: 08/12/2014