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Editor-In-Chief: Prab R. Tumpati M.D.. Founder, WikiMD and W8MD Weight Loss, Sleep and MedSpa Centers. Dr. Tumpati is board certified physician practicing sleep medicine, obesity medicine, aesthetic medicine and internal medicine. Dr. Tumpati’s passion is prevention rather than cure. As a physician with fellowship training in Obesity Medicine, Dr. Tumpati has a unique approach to wellness, weight loss, aesthetics with a focus on prevention rather than cure. Dr. Tumpati believes in educating the public on the true science and art of medicine, nutrition, wellness and beauty.

WikiMD Resources for COPD


Most recent articles on COPD

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Review articles on COPD

Articles on COPD in N Eng J Med, Lancet, BMJ


Powerpoint slides on COPD

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Videos on COPD

Evidence Based Medicine

Cochrane Collaboration on COPD

Bandolier on COPD


Clinical Trials

Ongoing Trials on COPD at Clinical

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Guidelines / Policies / Govt

US National Guidelines Clearinghouse on COPD

NICE Guidance on COPD





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Patient resources on COPD

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CME Programs on COPD


COPD en Espanol

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COPD in the Marketplace

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Experimental / Informatics

List of terms related to COPD

Alternative names

COPD; Chronic obstructive airway disease; Chronic obstructive lung disease


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that cause swelling of the airways. that are characterized by airflow obstruction or limitation. It is usually caused by tobacco smoking but can also be caused by coal dust. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common forms of COPD.

Conditions included in this umbrella term are:

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The leading cause of COPD is smoking. Between 15% and 20% of long-term smokers will develop COPD. Prolonged tobacco use causes lung inflammation and destroys air sacs in the lungs. (In rare cases, an enzyme deficiency called alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency can cause emphysema in non-smokers.)

Other risk factors for COPD are exposure to secondhand smoke, male gender, and working or living in a polluted environment.


Shortness of breath (dyspnea) persisting for months to years Wheezing Decreased exercise tolerance Cough with or without phlegm Signs and tests

An examination often reveals increased work involved in breathing: nasal flaring may be evident during air intake, and the lips may be pursed (the shape lips make when you whistle) while exhaling.

During a flare of disease, chest inspection reveals contraction of the muscles between the ribs during inhalation (intercostal retraction) and the use of accessory breathing muscles. The respiratory rate (amount of breaths per minute) may be elevated, and wheezing may be heard through a stethoscope.

A chest X-ray can show an over-expanded lung (hyperinflation), and a chest CT scan may show emphysema.

A sample of blood taken from an artery (arterial blood gas) can show low levels of oxygen (hypoxemia) and high levels of carbon dioxide (respiratory acidosis). Pulmonary function tests show decreased airflow rates while exhaling and over-expanded lungs.


Treatment for COPD includes inhalers that dilate the airways (bronchodilators) and sometimes theophylline. The COPD patient must stop smoking. In some cases inhaled steroids are used to suppress lung inflammation, and, in severe cases or flare-ups, intravenous or oral steroids are given.

Antibiotics are used during flare-ups of symptoms as infections can worsen COPD. Chronic, low-flow oxygen, non-invasive ventilation, or intubation may be needed in some cases. Surgery to remove parts of the disease lung has been shown to be helpful for some patients with COPD.

Lung rehabilitation programs may help some patients.

Lung transplant is sometimes performed for severe cases.

Support Groups

The stress of illness can often be helped by joining a support group where members share common experiences and problems. See lung disease - support group.

Expectations (prognosis)

This condition is associated with chronic (long-term) illness. The disease continues to worsen if tobacco use continues.


Right sided heart failure or cor pulmonale (enlargement of the heart and heart failure associated with chronic lung disease) Arrhythmias Dependence on mechanical ventilation and oxygen therapy Pneumothorax (air outside the lung) Pneumonia Calling your health care provider

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if there is a rapid increase in shortness of breath or if complications develop.


Avoidance of smoking prevents COPD. Early recognition and treatment of small airway disease in people who smoke, combined with smoking cessation, may prevent progression of the disease.

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