It’s estimated that three million people in the UK are affected by COPD and it’s more common as you get older. COPD is a life-threatening lung disease that tends to get progressively worse and is most commonly caused by smoking.
A chronic illness is one that lasts a long time, sometimes for the rest of the affected person’s life. When describing an illness, the term ‘chronic’ refers to how long a person has it, not to how serious a condition is.
The term COPD has replaced the previously separate conditions of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis is inflammation of your bronchi – the main airways that lead from your windpipe (trachea) to your lungs. This inflammation can produce excess mucus that may block your airways and make you cough.
Emphysema damages the structure of your alveoli – these are tiny air sacs where oxygen passes into your blood. When the alveoli lose their elasticity this reduces the support of the airways, causing them to narrow.