Do you have COPD?


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.

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

Don't Forget to Breathe is a guide for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and their carers. Download your free copy.

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

View all
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.

Screen Shot 2020 06 27 At 10 46 25 Pm

Breathlessness Plan for COPD

A quick reference guide for managing breathlessness in COPD