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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is smoking related lung damage causing airflow limitation, shortness of breath, cough and mucus production. The longer you smoke, and the more you smoke, the more likely you are to develop COPD.

COPD is a progressive disease, but will progress less rapidly if you stop smoking. Recurrent infections can be an issue in the later stages of the disease and cause more rapid decline in lung function.

Patients with COPD need regular monitoring, with review of their symptoms, assessment for possible exacerbating factors, and breathing tests.

Management includes smoking cessation, prevention of infection (vaccination), treatment of possible exacerbating factors, pulmonary rehabilitation (a program run by nurses and physiotherapists, usually over a period of 2 months), and a variety of puffers (usually 1 or 2). Early treatment of infections and exacerbations is important and all patients with COPD should have an Action Plan. Some patients who have stopped smoking and are otherwise healthy may be considered for lung transplant. A select group of patients may be candidates for endobronchial valves, which work by allowing collapse of the more damaged parts of the lung, improving respiratory mechanics. Patients with more severe disease may require home oxygen.

The following patients benefit from seeing a respiratory specialist:

  • moderate to severe COPD
  • rapidly worsening symptoms
  • asthma and COPD
  • been diagnosed with COPD and are less than 40 years old
  • get frequent chest infections

A GP referral is required.

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