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Patient Support

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, a lung condition that makes it difficult to empty air out of the lungs interfering with normal breathing because your airways have been narrowed.

According to the figures presented by RediffIn and WHO it was found that in India COPD is considered as the 2nd biggest cause of death, whereas, worldwide it is the 4th leading cause of death. 

COPD includes Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema.

These processes narrow the airways making it harder to move air in and out as you breathe, and your lungs are less able to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide.

COPD is a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke. 

What’s the difference between COPD and asthma?

So, if your breathlessness and other symptoms are much better on some days than others, or if you often wake up in the night feeling wheezy, it’s more likely you have asthma.



Symptoms of COPD include: 


 Out of breath- 1st sign to notice

Additional symptoms include:


COPD usually develops because of long-term damage to your lungs from breathing due to harmful substance such as cigarette smoke, as well as smoke from other sources and air pollution.


Smoking tobacco for a longer duration is the key cause of COPD. Some of the smokers don’t counter COPD also.

The toxins in cigarette smoke weaken your lung’s defence against infections, which narrow air passages, causing swelling in air tubes and eventually destroy the air sacs.


What you breathe every day at work, home and outdoors can play a role in developing COPD.

Genetic: Alpha-1 : Antitrypsin Deficiency (AAt)

Alpha-1-antitrypsin is produced by the liver which is secreted in the bloodstream to protect the lungs. 

AAt deficiency is a rare genetic (inherited) condition that affects the body’s ability to produce a protein (Alpha-1).This makes people very susceptible to develop COPD at a young age.



To diagnose COPD, your doctor will evaluate:

1. Health History

Your doctor may:

After a proper general examination, the doctor suggests for some tests to rule out further diagnosis.

2. Test May Include

Spirometry is a simple test that measures the amount of air you blow out and how fast you can blow it.

Your doctor also might use the test results to find out how severe your COPD is and to help set your treatment goals.

Chest X-Ray
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Test


COPD can’t be cured, but it can be treated. Early diagnosis, lifestyle changes, and appropriate drug treatments can help you lead a normal and active life, feel better, and stay out of the hospital.

Quit smoking

The most important step in the treatment plan for COPD is to quit smoking. 

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to feel better. COPD will get worse if you continue to smoke or are around second-hand smoke or air pollution.


COPD medicines cannot cure COPD, but they can improve your symptoms. 

Your doctor decides which medication is good for you based on 

The different types of COPD medicines include:

Bronchodilator medicines open up the airways (breathing tubes) in your lungs by relaxing your muscles. When your airways are more open, it’s easier to breathe.

Medication prescribed by your doctor can be either long-acting bronchodilators or short-acting bronchodilators depending upon the severity of your COPD. They are usually taken by using inhalers. Do ask your doctor for the correct way of using the inhaler. 

Long-acting bronchodilators-They relax the muscles around the airway and their effects remain for 12 hours. You can take them every day. 

Short-acting bronchodilators- Their effects remain for 4 to 6 hours. One can use it in case you have symptoms. 

If you have regular flare-ups or exacerbations of your COPD, you may also be given a steroid inhaler. This can help reduce inflammation and swelling in your airways. This sort of drug is usually given in combination with a long-acting.

If you cough up a lot of sputum, you may be given a drug called a mucolytic as a tablet or syrup. This makes your sputum thinner and easier to cough up.

Supplemental Oxygen

In case COPD causes a low oxygen level then you require extra or supplemental oxygen (also called oxygen therapy). It’s not a treatment for breathlessness but is used to stop the oxygen level in your blood to fall into a category of dangerously low levels.

Non-invasive ventilation

This involves wearing a nasal cannula (a soft tube inserted into your nose) or face mask connected to a machine that pushes air into your lungs. 

Non-invasive ventilation supports your breathing to give your muscles a rest and gently helps with each breaths you take. This increases your oxygen level and helps you breathe out more carbon dioxide. This is generally done when you are hospitalized with a flare-up. 

If you regularly wake up with a headache, tell your doctor. It can be a sign that your breathing is shallow at night and you might benefit from non-invasive ventilation at home.

Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS)

For some people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung volume reduction surgery may be recommended. 

LVRS is an operation that removes the worst affected areas of your lung so that the healthier parts of your lung can work better.

If you have emphysema, this surgery can help to make your breathing more comfortable and improve your quality of life. But it’s a significant operation and does carry risks.

Lung transplant

If you have very severe COPD and have not got better with treatment, you might be a candidate for a lung transplant depending on your age, other illnesses, and test findings. In a lung transplant, the surgeon takes out one or two of the lungs and replaces them with healthy lungs.

Lung transplants can improve your ability to breathe and be active. However, like any major operation, you should consider the risks and complications, such as organ rejection or needing to take immune-suppressing medications daily.



When you have COPD, the right amount and type of exercise has many benefits and is an important part of staying healthy. 

Pulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a specialized exercise program for people with long-term lung disease like COPD. 

Most sessions focus on improving your exercise ability to improve your quality of life.

Controlling your breathing

Being in control of your breathing means breathing gently, using the least effort, with your shoulders supported and relaxed.

Different things work best for different people but these are all the techniques to try:

Breathe in gently through your nose and breathe out through your nose and mouth. Try to feel relaxed and calm each time you breathe out.

Breathe in gently through your nose and breathe out with your lips pursed as if you are whistling.

Use this when you’re doing something that makes you breathless, such as standing up. 

Breathe in before you make the effort then breathe out while making the effort. Try using pursed lips as you breathe out.

This is useful when you’re active, such as climbing stairs. 

You match your steps to your breathing. For example, breathe in when on the stair, and breathe out as you go up a stair.

Eating well and keeping a healthy weight

It’s important to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and over thin can make one worse of breathlessness. 


FLU SHOTS: Infections are a major cause of COPD exacerbations. Make sure you get your flu vaccine every year to protect you against the flu viruses likely to be going round over the winter.

Your doctor should also offer you vaccination against pneumococcal infection – a bacterial infection that can cause pneumonia and other illnesses. You only need to have this once.

Questions for your Doctor

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Exercise has many benefits. First, it decreases shortness of breath and improves your energy level. It also decreases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, high blood sugar and side effects from medicine (steroids). Exercise increases bone strength, muscle strength, endurance, relaxation and restful sleep. Overall, exercise will improve your quality of life.

By using coordinated breathing techniques and starting out slowly, you will be able to find an exercise program that works for you. When you have shortness of breath, it can cause you to become anxious. This can lead to inactivity. The more inactive you are, the more short of breath you become. The increased shortness of breath in turn increases your anxiety about activity. This is called the “Vicious Cycle of Dyspnoea.” If you exercise, you can beat this cycle. This will give you more energy, decrease your level of breathlessness (dyspnoea) and decrease some of the anxiety that comes with being short of breath. 

Often, participating in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can help one resume regular physical activity.

Shortness of breath in COPD is caused by too much air remaining in the lungs, decreasing the amount of room left in the lungs to breathe. Pursed lip breathing will help you feel less short of breath by reducing the amount of trapped air in the lungs, giving you more room to breathe. It also helps increase your oxygen saturation. Pursed lip breathing causes a positive pressure in your airways, keeping them open longer while you are breathing out. This helps move air out of your lungs more easily, thus allowing fresh air to come into the lungs.

If your health care provider has prescribed oxygen for activity, it is very important that you wear it when you exercise. Oxygen is prescribed when the oxygen level in your blood drops below an acceptable level either at rest or with activity. Using your prescribed oxygen will allow you to feel less shortness of breath when you are active and allow you to do more. Wearing your oxygen will not make you become “addicted” to it. It only makes up for what your lungs are unable to do at that time.

Generally, this may occur because of your breathing technique. Two possible explanations may be:

  • If you did not apply the coordinated breathing technique while climbing the stairs, you may feel more short of breath after the task due to the energy expended. You asked your muscles to do more work while climbing the stairs. Your body needs an increased amount of oxygen as it is rapidly trying to pump it to all of your muscles. If the oxygen need is greater than the demand or your capacity, you may feel more short of breath.
  • If you were so focused on coordinating your breathing with the rhythm of stair climbing that when you stopped, your coordinated breathing stopped as well, breathe slowly, deeply, and rhythmically with a focus as you exhale throughout the stair climbing activity to decrease your feeling of breathlessness.

This is a good question to ask your health care provider. Some people may need to continue oxygen therapy routinely to maintain the oxygen level in their blood. We all need oxygen to survive and for our bodies to operate more efficiently and effectively. It is important that you have the proper levels of oxygen in your body so that your heart and lungs are not working too hard and/or inefficiently. Depending on the progression of your disease, sometimes exercise will help your body systems work more effectively and may decrease the amount of supplemental oxygen needed.

No, even if you used tobacco for many years, you will benefit from quitting smoking. When you quit smoking, the lung damage will progress more slowly. In addition, your breathing and response to your medicines may noticeably improve.

Not necessarily, do ask your doctor about a breathing test, known as spirometry. Spirometry is a better test for detecting early stages of lung damage. A chest X-ray is more likely to show COPD at a later stage, when there is more damage.

Fortunately, there are other steps that you can take to lessen your risk of lung infections with COPD. Ask your health care provider about the yearly flu vaccine (every fall) and the pneumonia vaccines. The pneumonia vaccines prevent common types of bacterial pneumonia. Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes, and wash your hands thoroughly (with soap) and frequently. Good hand washing is one of the easiest and best ways to avoid getting all sorts of infections. Keep in mind that it is still important to avoid close contact with people who are coughing and sneezing.

Quitting smoking is the one thing you can do that has been proven to slow the progression of COPD

There is no time limit on how long a person can live, even with very severe COPD. If you exercise safely and effectively, and pay attention to early warning signs of acute exacerbation of COPD—and act on those early warning signs—you can live a full life.

To remain stable and eliminate or decrease these episodes, you must learn about triggers, early warning signs of COPD flare-ups (exacerbations), and have a written action plan worked out with your health care provider. Taking your medications as prescribed will also help you stay healthy. Make sure you take your flu and pneumonia shots. Quitting smoking also help reduce the number of exacerbations you may get.

A trained respiratory health care professional can teach you techniques to keep yourself calm, even when you’re short of breath. Participation in pulmonary rehabilitation is the best way to learn and get reinforcement for this important issue. There is also treatment available, so be sure to bring this up at your next health care provider appointment.