FROM MARK PILLING, BRITISH LUNG FOUNDATION
Please take this post as what it is meant to be - to clarify some info about COPD - if you like "sorting the wheat from the chaffe (?)"
COPD is the occurrence of chronic bronchitis or emphysema - a pair of commonly co-existing diseases of the lungs which causes the airways to narrow over time. This causes shortness of breath.
COPD is defined by it's characteristically low air flow - spirometry used to measure the airflow - the low air flow is not reversible and gets worse over time. Whereas with asthma the restriction/low air flow is reversible.
Asthma and COPD are two different conditions - some people with COPD also have some asthmatic compenent - but people with asthma do not have COPD. Someone with asthma for many years can find that the reversible aspect of their asthma becomes less and less, and the damage to the airways more permanent - and this permanent damage is very similar to that found in COPD - which is why some people with asthma are told they have progressed to COPD, when perhaps the more accurate term is fixed airways disease.
The treatment of copd tends to be similar regardless of whether someone has more or less emphysema than bronchitis and vice versa. People with emphysema tend to need oxygen. Alpha 1 can affect other organs other than the lungs, so anyone with Alpha 1 may have more "complicated" treatment - but the treatment of their copd will not be any different from someone who has copd due to another cause.
COPD affects everyone differently - everyone manages their condition differently - the treatments are generally the same across the board regardless of how your COPD started.
Bronchiectasis (a separate condition to copd) is a permanent abnormal widening in one or more of the airways. Extra mucous tends to collect in those parts of the airway that are widened. The widened airways with mucous are prone to infection. The cause of bronchiectasis is not clear, some conditions that affect or damage the airways can cause bronchiectasis e.g. whooping cough, pneumonia, measles etc. It is possible to have both bronchiectasis and another condition.