Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a general term referencing various types of illness that prevent the lung from normal functioning – chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is sometimes used interchangeably with chronic bronchitis. In general, there are three main types of lung disease: airway diseases, lung tissue diseases, lung circulation diseases.

Airway diseases affect the airways that have function in regulating the process of carrying oxygen and various other gases into and out of the lungs. They usually manifest by causing a narrowing or blockage of the airways and include: asthma, emphysema, bronchiectasis, chronic bronchitis. Common feelings of “trying to breathe out through a straw”. Lung tissue diseases affect the structure of the lung tissue. Scarring or inflammation of the tissue makes it difficult for the lungs to fully expand (restrictive lung diseases). Common feelings of “wearing a too-tight sweater or vest” and include: connective tissue disease, interstitial lung disease. Lung circulation diseases affect the blood vessels in the lungs producing clotting, scarring or inflammation of the vessels. May also affect the heart and include: pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary embolism.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease (airway disease). People who have asthma have inflamed airways, making them swollen and sensitive to inhaling certain substances. When the airways come into contact with irritant substances, they react by a tightening of the surrounding muscles. The airways then contract, preventing air from entering the lungs. If the airways react by swelling, this too creates a narrowing effect preventing air from entering the lungs. Cells in the airways also produce larger quantities of mucus than necessary. The mucus, being of a thick liquid consistency can further block air from entering the system.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also known as chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD) or chronic obstructive airway disease (COAD). It is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time. In COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways due to the airways and air sacs (the alveoli found at the end of the numerous small tubes extending from the airways into the surface of the lung) losing their elasticity. The walls between many of the air sacs become deteriorated, the walls of the airways become thick and inflamed and the airways produce more mucus than normal, which can cause blockage.



The exact cause of asthma is yet to be determined

Possible causes:

Inherited tendency to develop allergies (atopy)

Asthmatic parents

Respiratory infections contracted during childhood

Contact with airborne allergens or exposure to viral infections in infancy or early childhood

The Hygiene Hypothesis: since current lifestyles are focused on cleanliness and sanitation to quite a large degree, it resulted in affecting living conditions and determined an overall decline in childhood infections, but also resulted in weaker immune systems, increasing the chances of developing atopy


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Long-term exposure to lung irritants: cigarette smoke (or any type of smoke), second-hand smoking, air pollution, chemical fumes

Rarely, a genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency may increase chances of developing COPD if exposure to lung irritants is prolonged

Some people who have asthma may develop CODP as well

Symptoms and signs


Coughing – it usually worsens late at night or early in the morning, causing sleep disturbances

Wheezing – whistling or squeaking sound made when breathing

Chest tightness

Shortness of breath – feeling like air cannot enter the lungs or be expelled out of the lungs

Severity and rate may vary over time

Related health conditions: runny nose, sinus infections, reflux disease, sleep apnea


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Ongoing cough that produces large quantities of mucus

Shortness of breath especially when performing physical activity

Wheezing or squeaking sound when breathing

Feeling of chest tightness

Frequent contracting of the flu

Severe symptoms induced by a lack of oxygen: hard time breathing or talking, lips or fingernails turn blue, no mental alertness, rapid heart beating



No immediate cure, but treatments may very well ameliorate symptoms


Long-term asthma control medications: generally taken daily

Inhaled corticosteroids – anti-inflammatory drugs

Leukotriene modifiers – relieve asthma symptoms up to 24 hours

Long-acting beta agonists – inhaled medications for opening the airways

Combination inhalers

Theophylline – muscle relaxant

Quick-relief medications: used for rapid, short-term relief during an asthma attack

Short-acting beta agonists – inhaled bronchodilators


Oral and intravenous corticosteroids

Allergy medications

Bronchial thermoplasty – used when other treatments have failed to work – heating the insides of the airways with an electrode to reduce the smooth muscle inside them and prevent the airways’ ability to tighten

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

No identified cure, but treatments may ameliorate symptoms

Quitting smoking and avoiding lung irritants


Short- acting bronchodilators – last up to 4-6 hours

Long- acting bronchodilators – last up to 12 hours or more and are used daily

Combination bronchodilators and inhaled glucocorticosteroids

Vaccines to reduce the risk of flus and pneumonia

Pulmonary rehabilitation: exercise program, disease management training, nutritional and psychological counseling

Oxygen therapy

Surgery is used only as last resort:

Bullectomy – removal of bullae (large air spaces that form when the walls of the air sacs are destroyed)

Lung volume reduction surgery – removal of damaged tissue

Lung transplant

  • Asthma

    Asthma can be outgrown

    Asthma is always easy to manage

    Allergies have nothing to do with asthma

    People with asthma cannot exercise – on the contrary, regular exercise improves lung function, though a proper plan has to be devised with the help of a physician

    A change in climate can cure asthma

    Asthma medications are addictive – asthma is a chronic disease necessitating life-long treatment

    Asthma is not fatal

    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

    There are no treatments for COPD

    People suffering from COPD cannot lead a normal life

    You do not need to quit smoking to treat the disease

    Only smokers can get COPD



Asthma affects people of all ages, and it often starts during childhood

In the U.S. in 2015, about 18.7 million people have been diagnosed with asthma, out of which 6.8 million are children

Number of visits to physician offices with asthma as primary diagnosis: 14.2 million

Number of visits to emergency departments with asthma as primary diagnosis: 1.8 million


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the following data for the U.S. has been issued:

Number of adults with diagnosed chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in the past year (2012): 6.8 million

Percent of adults with diagnosed chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in the past year: 2.9%

Number of adults with diagnosed chronic bronchitis in the past year: 8.7 million

Percent of adults with diagnosed chronic bronchitis in the past year: 3.7%

Did you know?


For some people, asthma attacks may occur when:

Doing exercise, and can worsen if the air is cold and dry – exercise-induced asthma

Inhaling chemical fumes, gases or toxins – occupational asthma

Triggered by certain allergens (pet related, insects, pollen)

May 5th 2015 was National Asthma Day


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 

The best way to prevent the onset of CODP is to not take up smoking or to quit smoking, the leading cause of the illness

Oxygen therapy works by flowing oxygen through a tube into the lungs, after it had been previously supplied in a metal container

The oxygen may enter the system through:

Nasal cannula

Face mask

A small tube inserted into the neck’s windpipe

Famous people diagnosed with CODP: Amy Winehouse, Christy Turlington