Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Synonyms: COPD, Chronic obstructive lung disease

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Geriatrics, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a term used to refer to a group of diseases, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. All these diseases involve airflow obstruction and breathing-related problems. The typical course of COPD is gradual progression, with airflow lung function worsening. Because COPD adds to the work of the heart, patients sometimes develop cor pulmonale (or an enlarged heart).

In Our Own Words

COPD, the acronym for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, applies to a family of conditions with the common feature of problematic breathing due to airflow obstruction. Chronic bronchitis involves irritation and inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes (air passages), with coughing and excess mucus.

Most COPD is related to cigarette smoking, although some cases are tied to an inherited condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Alpha-1 antitrypsin normally protects the lungs from elastase, an enzyme that breaks down elastin.

Relevant Conditions
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
Common Types
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
Side Effects
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chronic cough with mucus
  • Wheezing
  • Sensation of tightness in the chest
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Understanding COPD." Diseases & Conditions. Dec. 2011. Accessed July 2013.
  • American Lung Association. "Understanding COPD." Lung Disease 2013. Accessed July 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "COPD” Home Page. April 2013. Accessed July 2013.
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