What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the world and is predicted to be of increased importance in the future.1 Although COPD results in millions of deaths every year, it does not always receive the same attention as other diseases such as heart disease or cancer; most people do not even recognize the term COPD and are unaware of its chronic debilitating nature and impact on society.

COPD is an umbrella term that encompasses chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is a common and preventable, treatable disease, characterized by persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive, and associated with an enhanced chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lung to noxious particles or gases. It also includes a significant extra-pulmonary component, systemic inflammation.1

Exacerbations contribute to overall disease severity and extra-pulmonary effects, such as significant systemic inflammation and impact on the cardiovascular, muscular, metabolic2 and skeletal systems, contributing to a range of comorbidities such as diabetes.3

Expert opinion


  1. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD): Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management, and Prevention of COPD. 2013. www.goldcopd.org
  2. Marquis K, Maltais F, Duguay V, et al. The metabolic syndrome in patients with COPD. J Cardiopulm Rehabil 2005;25:226-32.
  3. Mannino D, Thorn D, Swensen A, et al. Prevalence and outcomes of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease in COPD. Eur Resp J 2008;32:962-9.

Risk factors for COPD

Find out which risk factors are associated with COPD.Go

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