n. (context pathology English) A group of diseases characterized by the pathological limitation of airflow in the airway that is not fully reversible. May be caused by reactive airways, chronic infection, congenital defects, or, most commonly, cigarette smoking. Generally does not include neoplasms, which could also obstruct airways.
n. a nonreversible lung disease that is a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis; usually patients have been heavy cigarette smokers
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a type of obstructive lung disease characterized by long term poor airflow. The main symptoms include shortness of breath and cough with sputum production. COPD typically worsens over time. Eventually walking up stairs or carrying things will be difficult. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are older terms used for different types of COPD. The term "chronic bronchitis" is still used to define a productive cough that is present for at least three months each year for two years.
Tobacco smoking is the most common cause of COPD, with a number of other factors such as air pollution and genetics playing a smaller role. In the developing world, one of the common sources of air pollution is poorly vented heating and cooking fires. Long-term exposure to these irritants causes an inflammatory response in the lungs resulting in narrowing of the small airways and breakdown of lung tissue. The diagnosis is based on poor airflow as measured by lung function tests. In contrast to asthma, the airflow reduction does not improve much with the use of a bronchodilator.
Most cases of COPD can be prevented by reducing exposure to risk factors. This includes decreasing rates of smoking and improving indoor and outdoor air quality. While treatment can slow worsening, there is no cure. COPD treatments include stopping smoking, vaccinations, respiratory rehabilitation, and often inhaled bronchodilators and steroids. Some people may benefit from long-term oxygen therapy or lung transplantation. In those who have periods of acute worsening, increased use of medications and hospitalization may be needed.
As of 2013 COPD affects 329 million people or nearly 5 percent of the global population. It typically occurs in people over the age of 40. Males and females are affected equally commonly. In 2013 it resulted in 2.9 million deaths, up from 2.4 million deaths in 1990. More than 90% of these deaths occur in the developing world. The number of deaths is projected to increase further because of higher smoking rates and an aging population in many countries. It resulted in an estimated economic cost of $2.1 trillion in 2010.