The Irish Thoracic Society have launched a new website for patients and health professionals on all aspects of COPD. To Visit, Click Here

What is COPD?

COPD stands for “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”

  • Chronic means it won’t go away.
  • Obstructive means partly blocked.
  • Pulmonary means in the lungs.
  • Disease means sickness.

COPD is a common lung disease that obstructs the airways, making breathing difficult. COPD has previously been described as chronic bronchitis (inflammation and narrowing of the airways) and emphysema (weakening of the structure of the lung). Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, cough and sputum (phlegm) production. If you have these symptoms, you should ask your doctor about COPD. Doctors can help to improve your symptoms and slow damage to your lungs.
It is estimated that over 100,000 people suffer from the disease in Ireland.

What causes COPD?

COPD is usually caused by smoking or exposure to fumes or very dusty places and can therefore be prevented through smoking avoidance or cessation and non-exposure to potentially damaging environmental conditions.

Treatment of COPD

When COPD develops, it can be treated, although it cannot be cured. The earlier it is detected, the better the results of treatment. Therapy is aimed at slowing the damage to the airways and relieving symptoms.


Bronchodilators (or relievers) are the main treatment for breathlessness caused by COPD. Although their relaxing effect on the airways is limited, they provide useful symptom relief.


In patients with severe COPD, regular use of inhaled corticosteroids may reduce exacerbations and symptoms.


In severe COPD, the level of oxygen in the blood is seriously reduced and supplementary oxygen may be very helpful. In people with very advanced disease, oxygen is required most or all of the time.

Other therapies

Other drug therapies used in COPD include antibiotics for bronchial infections (“exacerbations”), mucolytics and antioxidants.
Lung transplantation is used occasionally in end-stage disease.

Useful links:

Reproduced by kind permission of the European Lung Foundation