Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC, FCCP
Ryland P Byrd Jr, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Zab Mosenifar, MD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a long-lasting obstruction of the airways that occurs with chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. This obstruction of airflow is progressive in that it happens over time.
In chronic bronchitis, the mucous glands in the lungs become larger. The airways become inflamed, and the bronchial walls thicken. These changes and the loss of supporting alveolar (air space) attachments limit airflow by allowing the airway walls to deform and narrow the airway lumen (the inside of the airway tube).
Emphysema is an abnormal, permanent enlargement of the air spaces (alveoli) located at the end of the breathing passages of the lungs (terminal bronchioles). Emphysema also destroys the walls of these air spaces.
There are 3 types of emphysema: centriacinar emphysema, panacinar emphysema, and distal acinar emphysema or paraseptal emphysema.
In the United States, approximately 14.2 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, 12.5 million people have chronic bronchitis, and 1.7 million people have emphysema. It is estimated that there may be an additional equal number of US citizens that have COPD but who have not been diagnosed with the disorder. The number of people with COPD has increased by 41.5% since 1982.
Worldwide data are sparse. However, because more than 1.2 billion people are exposed to smoking, the number of persons with COPD is probably quite high.
Must Read Articles Related to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Viewer Comments & Reviews
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - Symptoms
The eMedicineHealth physician editors ask:
The symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Find out what women really need.
Pill Identifier on RxList
- quick, easy,
Find a Local Pharmacy
- including 24 hour, pharmacies