Do you have COPD?

COPD symptoms test
  • Do you suffer from shortness of breath, especially during physical activities?
  • Do you often have a wheeze when breathing?
  • Does your chest frequently feel tight?
  • Are you having to clear your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs?
  • Do you have a chronic cough that brings up mucus (phlegm) that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish?
  • Do you sometimes notice blueness of your lips or fingernail beds?
  • Do you frequently have respiratory infections that require antibiotics?
  • Do you have a sustained lack of energy or ongoing fatigue?
  • Have you recently lost a lot of weight without actively trying to?
  • Do you often have swelling in your ankles, feet or legs?

If you have answered yes to three or more of the above questions, you may have chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) and should make an appointment to discuss these symptoms with your doctor.

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

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. 

Would you like to know more?

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

Breathe Easier with COPD is a guide for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Download your free copy.  

Useful Asthma Resources

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Copd Management Plan

COPD Action Plan

This is a brochure containing a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Action Plan for doctors to complete together with their patients.

Copd Action Plan Maori

COPD Action Plan - Te Reo Māori

This is a brochure containing a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) Action Plan for doctors to complete together with their patients.