British Lung Foundation

What is it, really?

Because my husband passed away 4 years after being diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma (lung cancer), I opted to have a CT scan of my lungs to make sure I didn't have any looming problems. It was discovered that I had mild emphysema. That was no shock as I had smoked until 12 years prior to that scan. A second CT scan two years ago revealed the same diagnosis - mild emphysema with no other changes. I don't have a cough, never have had bronchitis nor asthma. However, on my medical records is the notation that I have COPD. As an old nurse who learned from my Mayo Clinic/St. Mary's schooling in the 1960s, COPD is a combination of at least two out of three of the 3 ailments . . . emphysema, bronchitis or asthma. The treatments for COPD vs. mild emphysema are worlds apart and I wonder when these lines of distinction were erased and if they were, why? Or is it lack of knowledge in the medical community that obscures the difference.

If there's anyone out there who can shed light on the evolution of this terminology, I'd like to hear of you.

8 Replies

Currently the COPD umbrella covers emphysema and chronic bronchitis, or sometimes a combination of the two.


Hello.... I've been diagnosed with mild emphysema/COPD and do not have bronchitis or Asthma.


Hi GrannaOnTheFarm I found your post very interesting. I was also under the impression that being diagnosed with COPD you had to have two of the following: Emphysema, Bronchitis or Asthma. My wife was diagnosed with COPD and has all three.

Reading the letter from my last consultation with my Pulmonary Consultant, under the Diagnosis section is listed COPD - Emphysema. That's the only thing listed so it looks like you only need one out of the three things you mention to be classed as having COPD.

I do have Pulmonary Fibrosis as well but that isn't classed as COPD.

Regards. John


Hi as I understand it copd (at least in the UK) covers chronic bronchitis and emphysema but sometimes asthma is thrown in as well. Most people will have primarily one or the other with a bit of the other as well but not always.

So it is possible to diagnosed with just emphysema but it still comes under copd. I do not know which I have as despite asking, my nurses and doctors just insist it's all copd. I don't think they know to be honest. When I really pushed a nurse she said at a guess she thinks it is more likely to be chronic bronchitis and I'm lucky as this is better than emphysema. x


it wasn't till I had a ct scan that they knew it was emphysema I had ,the gp said you have copd its either emphysema or bronchitis or both , there's a blue pump use that good bye , when back month later said the blue pump don't help so she said well don't take it good bye

1 like

Well at least you had a ct scan M which is more than I have ever had. So my doctors don't know whether I have chronic bronchitis or emphysema. They said it doesn't make a difference. Ok it might not in the earlier stages but it sure does later on.

I have asked for a CT scan on several occasions (not on my records though - funny that), they just said it's not necessary, and they know the damage done to my lungs because of previous blood tests (not arterial though) and a chest X-ray (which they refused me on diagnosis and I had to fight for 4 years for). x


I only got a ct after I had collapsed lung other wise I wouldn't have got one , she did do an xray but that was all clear so she didn't think there was too much wrong ,


I just have severe emphysema classed as copd , some of the medical professionals get a bit funny when you say I have emphysema you get told you have copd then ,I answer yes but its the emphysema element I have as it was shown on a ct scan , they normal shut up then ,


You may also like...