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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

A type of lung disease marked by permanent damage to tissues in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes chronic bronchitis, in which the bronchi (large air passages) are inflamed and scarred, and emphysema, in which the alveoli (tiny air sacs) are damaged. It develops over many years and is usually caused by cigarette smoking. Also called COPD.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

COPD

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (PULL-mun-ary) disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. "Progressive" means the disease gets worse over time.

COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus (a slimy substance), wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants - such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust - also may contribute to COPD.

Overview

To understand COPD, it helps to understand how the lungs work. The air that you breathe goes down your windpipe into tubes in your lungs called bronchial (BRONG-ke-al) tubes or airways.

Within the lungs, your bronchial tubes branch into thousands of smaller, thinner tubes called bronchioles (BRONG-ke-ols). These tubes end in bunches of tiny round air... Read more about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Systematic Guideline Search and Appraisal, as Well as Extraction of Relevant Recommendations, for the DMP "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease" [Internet]

The aim of this study was to specify a potential need for updating and supplementation of the existing DMP “COPD” by means of a systematic search for new evidence-based guidelines relevant to the subject and by the synthesis of the guideline recommendations. The study was organized as follows:

Oxygen therapy in the pre‐hospital setting for acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

People with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are prone to sudden episodes where their symptoms become worse and oxygen levels may fall. Initial treatment during these episodes usually includes oxygen, but this may cause a rise in the carbon dioxide levels that can be dangerous. This review could not find any evidence to indicate the safest way to provide oxygen treatment in this circumstance.

Are cardioselective beta‐blockers a safe and effective treatment in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

Long term treatment with beta‐blocker medication reduces the risk of death in patients with high blood pressure, heart failure and coronary artery disease. But patients who have both COPD and cardiovascular disease sometimes do not receive these medicines because of fears that they may worsen the airways disease. This review of data from 22 randomised controlled trials on the use of cardioselective (heart‐specific) beta‐blockers in patients with COPD demonstrated no adverse effect on lung function or respiratory symptoms compared to placebo. This finding was consistent whether patients had severe chronic airways obstruction or a reversible obstructive component. In conclusion, cardioselective beta‐blockers should not be withheld from patients with COPD.

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Summaries for consumers

Fixed-dose combination aclidinium bromide / formoterol (Duaklir Genuair, Brimica Genuair) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Aclidinium bromide / formoterol for severe COPD with more than one flare-up per year

In early 2015, the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany) looked into the advantages and disadvantages of the drug combination aclidinium bromide and formoterol for the treatment of COPD when compared with the standard therapies. The following results apply to people with severe COPD (stage 3) with more than one flare-up per year.For this group, the researchers analyzed the data of 56 people participating in three studies conducted by the manufacturer. 34 participants used the fixed combination of aclidinium bromide / formoterol, and 22 used formoterol only. In addition, all participants were given an inhaled steroid.

Fixed-dose combination aclidinium bromide / formoterol (Duaklir Genuair, Brimica Genuair) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Aclidinium bromide / formoterol for moderate to severe COPD with no more than one flare-up per year

In early 2015, the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany) looked into the advantages and disadvantages of the drug combination aclidinium bromide and formoterol for the treatment of COPD when compared with the standard therapies. The following results apply to:People with moderate COPD (stage 2)People with severe COPD (stage 3) who have no more than one flare-up per yearThe manufacturer provided three studies involving about 1,100 patients for assessment. The studies compared the fixed combination of aclidinium bromide / formoterol with formoterol monotherapy.

Oxygen therapy in the pre‐hospital setting for acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

People with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are prone to sudden episodes where their symptoms become worse and oxygen levels may fall. Initial treatment during these episodes usually includes oxygen, but this may cause a rise in the carbon dioxide levels that can be dangerous. This review could not find any evidence to indicate the safest way to provide oxygen treatment in this circumstance.

See all (121)

Terms to know

Alveoli
Tiny air sacs at the end of the bronchioles (tiny branches of air tubes) in the lungs. The alveoli are where the lungs and the bloodstream exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. Carbon dioxide in the blood passes into the lungs through the alveoli. Oxygen in the lungs passes through the alveoli into the blood.
Bronchi
The large air passages that lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs.
Bronchioles
A tiny branch of air tubes in the lungs.
Chronic
Refers to disorders that last a long time, often years. Chronic is the opposite of acute, or brief.
Cough: Symptoms
A cough is a natural reflex that protects your lungs. Coughing helps clear your airways of lung irritants, such as smoke and mucus (a slimy substance).
Lungs
One of a pair of organs in the chest that supplies the body with oxygen, and removes carbon dioxide from the body.
Pulmonary
Having to do with the lungs.

More about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Photo of an adult

Also called: Chronic obstructive airway disease, Chronic obstructive lung disease, Chronic airflow limitation, Chronic airway obstruction, Chronic airway disease, Chronic irreversible airway obstruction, COAD, CAL, CAFL

See Also: Bronchitis, Pulmonary Emphysema

Other terms to know: See all 7
Alveoli, Bronchi, Bronchioles

Related articles:
Coping with COPD

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