COPD Awareness

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD – sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis) is a common, preventable, and treatable chronic lung disease.

It is estimated to affect nearly 400 Million(1) people worldwide, causing 3 million(2) global deaths annually, making it the third biggest cause of death in the world(3).

Emphysema usually refers to the destruction of the tiny air sacs at the end of the airways in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis refers to a chronic cough with the production of phlegm resulting from inflammation in the airways. 

Symptoms of COPD

Common Symptoms of COPD develop from mid-life onward and include:(3)

Breathlessness or difficulty breathing

Chronic cough, often with phlegm


Causes of COPD

COPD develops gradually over time, often resulting from a combination of risk factors:(3)

– Tobacco exposure from active smoking or passive exposure to second-hand smoke;

– Occupational exposure to dust, fumes, or chemicals;

– Indoor air pollution: biomass fuel (wood, animal dung, crop residue) or coal is frequently used for cooking and heating in low- and middle-income countries with high levels of smoke exposure; 

– Early life events such as poor growth in utero, prematurity, and frequent or severe respiratory infections in childhood that prevent maximum lung growth;

– Asthma in childhood; and

– A rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which can cause COPD at a young age.

Treatment of COPD

Although there is no cure for COPD, there are medicines, procedures, and lifestyle changes that can slow the progress of the disease and lead to a higher quality of life. Some of the possible treatments and procedures will be summarised below(4), but it is always important to speak to your Doctor first to get properly diagnosed and to discuss any treatment options thoroughly.

Stop Smoking

Even if you have not been diagnosed with COPD yet, it is still a good idea to stop smoking, as smoking remains the leading cause of COPD. Continuing the habit after diagnosis will worsen the condition, whereas quitting the habit will improve breathing capacity and your general health.


Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Working alongside a team of medical professionals, normally in a clinic, hospital, or treatment center, a program of breathing exercises, nutritional therapy, physical exercise, and smoke counseling can be followed.

7 Litre Oxygen Concentrator - by Summit Surgical

Oxygen Therapy

Severe cases of COPD may prevent a person from not getting enough air into their lungs, causing Hypoxemia (oxygen deficiency in the blood), which in turn could cause life-threatening Hypoxia (lack of oxygen in body tissue). Hypoxemia is treated with oxygen therapy whereby you breathe in oxygen, either using an Oxygen Cylinder, or an Oxygen Concentrator.

Breathing Machines for Sleep

People with moderate or severe COPD may need to be on a CPAP or BiPAP machine at hospital or at home to assist with sudden or severe flair-ups. These machines assist the patient in sleep, providing higher oxygen levels and removing carbon dioxide.

Intubation and Ventilators

In extremely severe flair-ups a person may need to be placed on a ventilator, with tracheal intubation, to provide mechanical breathing assistance.


Your doctor may prescribe various types of medication, including short-or-long-term Bronchodilators, types of steroids, PDE-4, Theophylinne, and/or Antibiotics. These medications can be taken in a variety of ways, but the most common COPD medications are administered by inhalers, or by nebulizing. Ensure that you discuss any allergies or other risk factors, that you may have to any medication, thoroughly with your doctor.

Professional Nebulizer - By Summit Surgical


Ask your doctor about flu, pneumonia, or other vaccinations which may be helpful in preventing conditions (or lowering the symptoms) that may cause major flair-ups. Ensure that you discuss any allergies or other risk factors, that you may have to any vaccinations, thoroughly with your doctor.


Finally, if all other treatments are unsuccessful in very severe cases of COPD, surgery (Bullectomy, Lung volume reduction, or lung transplant) may be required.