COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. “Chronic” means it is long-term. “Obstructive” refers to the narrowing in your airways – it obstructs the passage of air and makes it difficult to breathe. “Pulmonary Disease” means it is a condition that affects your lungs. COPD isn’t a single condition and it is possible to have more than one condition at the same time – most commonly emphysema and chronic bronchitis. 1
COPD happens when you have been exposed to something harmful to your lungs, for a long enough time to cause permanent damage. COPD is usually caused by smoking, and unfortunately, passive smoking can cause it too. It can also be caused by exposure to air pollution, or by inhaling dust or fumes at work. 1
These aren’t the only causes, but they are the most common. 1
The main symptom of COPD is breathlessness, which is graded based on how far and how fast you can walk without getting short of breath. 1
Other common symptoms, which will become more evident as the disease progresses, include persistent cough, tightness or wheezing in your chest, swelling in the feet and ankles and weight loss. 1
Life with COPD is difficult. Coping with your symptoms, feeling more tired and less active than before are just some of the reasons why you might feel anxious, isolated or depressed. If you are experiencing these emotions, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. You are not alone!
Flare-ups, or a situation when your symptoms can worsen, can be caused by a number of different triggers: 1,9,10
By understanding what your ‘triggers’ are, you can try to avoid them and keep your symptoms under control. This can help you to manage your disease more effectively.