Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD refers to a group of lung conditions including bronchitis and emphysema. COPD makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs because the airways have been narrowed. (Ref

Diagram showing the appearance of the airways in bronchitis and emphysema

When it is harder to move air in and out as you breathe, and your lungs are less able to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide- this can make it difficult and painful when breathing.

Chronic = it’s a long-term condition and does not go away

Obstructive = your airways are narrowed, so it’s harder to breathe out quickly

Pulmonary = it affects your lungs

Disease = it’s a medical condition

The airways are lined by muscle and elastic tissue. In a healthy lung, the tissue between the airways acts as packing and pulls on the airways to keep them open. With COPD, the airways are narrowed because:

  • the lung tissue is damaged so there is less pull on the airways
  • the elastic lining of the airways flops
  • the airway lining is inflamed

There are treatments to help you breathe more easily, but they can’t reverse the damage to your lungs – so it’s important to get an early diagnosis.