What is COPD?
COPD is a long term condition characterised by breathing difficulties that slowly get worse. This is a term used for a number of conditions; including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD leads to damaged airways in the lungs, causing them to become narrower and making it harder for air to get in and out of the lungs. The word 'chronic' means that the problem is long-term.
The symptoms of COPD include breathlessness, wheeziness, coughing, and coughing up phlegm. 1
Flare-ups or exacerbations are times when you suddenly become much more breathless, get a cough, or notice that you are producing more sputum or that it is a different colour than normal.
The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Once you give up smoking, you gradually reduce the chances of getting COPD - and you slow down its progress if you already have it. Occupational factors, such as coal dust can also cause COPD, as can the genetic condition Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. 1