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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.

People with COPD are more likely to develop non-respiratory diseases, such as:  

  • Cardiovascular disease (disease of the heart and circulation)
  • Diabetes and metabolic disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anemia

For more information on COPD, see our COPD Handbook