What is COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (sometimes called CORD for chronic obstructive respiratory disease) and is an umbrella term for the diseases emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma. COPD affects hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders, yet most have never even heard of it.

Illustration courtesy of healthflexhhs.com

When we breathe, air travels from our nose and mouth down through our airways to our lungs. In people with COPD, the airways are permanently obstructed and the tissue inside the lungs is damaged, making it hard to breathe. With emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs are gradually destroyed so people have difficulty absorbing enough oxygen, while in chronic bronchitis the airways become narrower and have increased mucus production and inflammation.

The symptoms of COPD are similar to asthma, and some people may have both conditions. In asthma, however, the narrowing of the airways is normally reversible, whereas COPD is largely non-reversible. Symptoms include coughing, increased phlegm, and breathlessness. COPD progresses over time and, although it is not curable, it can be controlled and further damage prevented.

COPD is often undiagnosed, and for this reason at least 200,000 (15%) of the adult population may be affected. Most cases of COPD are caused by smoking, and most people diagnosed are aged 40 or above. Even though a large proportion of COPD deaths are under-reported, COPD is still the fourth leading cause of death.

Like to know more?

For the latest statistics on COPD in New Zealand, click here.

Breathlessness Strategies for COPD Breathlessness is a major symptom of COPD. This document offers a number of interventions and techniques that can improve the severity and impact of breathlessness. Download your free copy.

Needing more support?

Check out our list of regional support groups here

Useful Asthma Resources

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Copd Action Plans Cover

COPD Action Plan

This self-management plan for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is to be completed by healthcare practitioners, together with their patient. These personalised action plans improve quality of life for patients and focus on recognising and treating deteriorating symptoms. Available in English, te reo Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Simplified Chinese

Breathlessness Strategies For Copd Cover

Breathlessness Strategies for COPD

Breathlessness is a major symptom in COPD. This comprehensive document outlines various strategies and techniques to help manage breathlessness.