Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that involve limited airflow in the lungs, airway inflammation, enlargement of the lung’s small air sacs (alveoli) and lung tissue destruction. The leading cause of COPD is cigarette smoking; it causes lung inflammation and varying degrees of destruction leading to inflamed and narrowed airways (chronic bronchitis) and/or permanent enlargement of the alveoli (emphysema).
Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing (a high pitch raspy sound or whistle on breathing), and breathlessness after exertion, fatigue and cough with or without phlegm. People with COPD are prone to chest infections that tend to worsen these symptoms.
Management of COPD aims to ease some of the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Treatments include inhalers that dilate the airways (bronchodilators) and corticosteroids, either inhaled or in tablet form, to suppress lung inflammation. Chest infections are treated with antibiotics. People with COPD must stop smoking to prevent further damage to their lungs.