Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease usually develops in the aftermath of chronic bronchitis.

Overview

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease usually develops in the aftermath of chronic bronchitis. It’s often caused by many years of smoking, which permanently destroys lung tissue. Typical symptoms include coughing up phlegm and shortness of breath. Giving up smoking is the best treatment, both as a preventive measure and also after the disease has been diagnosed.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

Other symptoms

Complications

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Smoking (most common cause)
  • Harmful substances such as gases, fumes, fine dust (very seldom, only after prolonged exposure)
  • Repeated respiratory tract infections
  • Genetic alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (lung enzyme)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Listening to the lungs (with a stethoscope)
  • Blood test (inflammatory markers, search for bacteria)
  • Sputum analysis (search for pathogens)
  • Pulmonary function test
  • Lung x-ray
  • Bronchoscopy
Possible therapies
  • Antibiotics (for bacteria)
  • Inhaled medication
  • Special breathing exercises and physiotherapy
  • Oxygen therapy (portable)
  • Surgery (e.g. removal of affected areas of the lungs)
  • Vaccinations (against flu and pneumococcal bacteria)

What can I do myself?

The destruction and narrowing (obstruction) of the airways can’t be reversed. Progress can, however, be slowed:

  • Stop smoking immediately (also as a preventive measure)
  • Balanced diet (strengthens the immune system)
  • Light physical activity

When to see a doctor?

  • Increasing breathlessness
  • Reduced performance capacity
  • Coughing up white phlegm (all the time, at its worst in the morning)
  • Blood in sputum
  • Involuntary weight loss

Further information

Swiss Lung Association
www.lungenliga.ch

Synonyms

bronchitis, COPD, COLD, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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