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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is a lung disease which causes difficulty in breathing. In people suffering from COPD airway tubes becomes permanently narrowed and inflamed causing the symptoms of COPD and tiredness.

COPD is a serious illness. It can not be cured. However, there is treatment which can reduce symptoms, prevent rapid progression and can prevent sudden worsening (exacerbation).
There are 2 types: Chronic Bronchitis & Emphysema.

The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Cigarette, Bidi, Hukkah all causes COPD. Domestic wood chullah smoke exposer in rural INDIA is common cause of COPD in females. People can also get COPD from breathing in toxic fumes or gases and environmental pollution. Rarely, COPD is caused by a genetic problem.

In early stages it is without symptoms. With progression of disease it causes:
  • Shortness of breath predominantly during exercise, alking.
  • Wheeze (whistling noise as you breathe)
  • Cough and spit up phlegm (mucus)

People who have COPD are also at increased risk for:
  • Infections, such as pneumonia
  • Lung cancer
  • Heart problems

Yes. Spirometry or Pulmonary Function Test (PFT). Its preferable to get it done under supervision of your treating doctor as there are some precautions needs to be taken before test.

Yes. You may need other tests as follow after consultation with your doctor

  • A blood test for a genetic problem called "antitrypsin deficiency" that can cause COPD.
  • A chest X-ray
  • An electrocardiogram (also called an "ECG")
  • A CT scan of Chest – This is an imaging test used to screen for lung cancer. Also, to determine extensiveness of the disease or to exclude other diagnosis.

Yes. Here are 2 important things you should do:

  • STOP SMOKING! It’s the most important thing you can do. Quitting will slow your disease and help you feel better.
  • Get vaccinated - Infections like the flu and pneumonia can be very hard on your lungs. It's important to try to prevent them by taking Influenza Vaccine every year and Pneumonia Vaccine at least once.


There are 4 main types of treatment for COPD:

  • Medicines – There are many medicines in form of inhaler and tablets which helps to decrease swelling of airways, liquify the thick mucus and broaden the narrowed airways. Sometimes corticosteroids are also required during flare up of the disease. Short courses of steroid during flare up has more benefit than side effects.
  • Oxygen – If your disease status and oxygen saturation worsens, you may need oxygen supplement during exertion or night or continuous for short or long duration.
  • Pulmonary rehab – Systematic, well planned, individualised chest and limb physiotherapy and various breathing exercises, including diet counselling are done to build better muscle strength and improve quality of life.
  • Surgery and endobronchial valves – Rarely some patients with very severe disease not controlled on above management require to undergo surgery to remove disease part of the lung (Lobectomy / Bullectomy). Sometime bronchoscopy is considered to place endo-bronchial valves so that normal lung tissue can get better ventilated.