COPD fact sheet

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic illness which affects the bronchial tubes and which, as it progresses, reduces the volume of air circulating in the lungs.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic and progressive illness characterized by an irreversible decrease in airflow.

The origin of this loss of breath is the permanent and progressive narrowing of the bronchial tubes resulting from constrictive scarring of the airways and their collapse linked to loss of lung tissue. Little by little, this bronchial obstruction prevents the passage of air, resulting in shortness of breath. This initially occurs with physical exertion, then gradually under conditions less and less physically intense, and finally difficulty breathing occurs even at rest.

The main cause of this illness is smoking (in 80-90% of cases). It can also be associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to fine particles, toxic gases or pollutants.


- Emphysema is damage to the lung parenchyma with obstruction of the airways followed by distension of the thorax;
- Chronic obstructive bronchitis is caused by inflammation and scarring of the airways with obstruction of the airways;
- Chronic bronchitis, also caused by smoking, manifests as a cough and chronic expectoration caused by hypersecretion in the airways. 

This illness may be reversible if diagnosed early enough.

Following a care regime can prove challenging when suffering from COPD as it may involve a number of different physicians: a generalist, lung specialist, physiotherapist, etc. It’s important to closely follow and have a clear understanding of your illness in order to:
- be able to stop smoking,
- continue your treatment over the long term,
- know the state of your breathing in order to perform self-assessments.
Help from others suffering from the same conditions can be helpful and sometimes provide answers to certain questions. You can find out more information on the COPD Forum.

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