COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

What is COPD?
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a disease of the lungs and airways. The airways become narrowed and damaged making it hard to breath. You might have heard of Emphysema or Chronic Bronchitis before. These are two types of COPD.

What are the symptoms?
COPD causes a productive (phlegm) coughing, wheezing and breathlessness. People with COPD are prone to recurrent chest infections.

Asthma can be mild, barely interfering with day to day life or severe enough to be life-threatening.

What causes it?
The vast majority of cases are caused by smoking. Some people inherit genes that make them more likely to develop COPD. Inhaling certain dusts or gases can cause it too.

How do I find out if I have COPD?
If you have the symptoms listed above and you have been a smoker for years you should talk to your GP. She can arrange a test called Spirometry which can diagnose COPD.

It is a painless test that involves blowing as hard and fast as possible into a tube a few times. The test is usually done in hospital so you may have to wait a few weeks or months to have it.

Can it be cured?
COPD can't be cured and it tends to get worse over time (especially with continued smoking) but there are treatments that can improve symptoms.

What treatment is available?
Medicines - usually inhalers are used to improve symptoms.
Oxygen therapy - can be used in severe COPD to prolong life and relieve symptoms
Pulmonary rehab - classes can be taken to improve breathing technique and exercise tolerance
Surgery - in very rare cases surgery can be used to remove parts of the lung that no longer function. This allows the rest of the lung to expand better.

Big Six - Terry's FAQs for COPD

Q: Is there a support group in Ireland for those with COPD?

A: Yes COPD Support Ireland, launched in October 2013
COPD Support Ireland is a new National Charity for people living with COPD. It is patient led and works to support the emergence and sustainability of local support groups, as well as raise awareness, provide support and advocate for better services for those living with COPD.

COPD Support Ireland: 01 - 2835252 or

Dr. Terry talks to Michelle O' Brien, Respiratory Physiotherapist at Saint Michael's Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, about the work the Pulmonary Rehab there does with people who have COPD.


Doctors On Call