COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

What is COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that obstructs the airways. It is caused by two simultaneous diseases that aggravate the symptoms: chronic bronchitis, the ongoing swelling of the airways, which produces cough and mucus, and emphysema, the irreversible damage and destruction of the pulmonary alveoli, which impedes normal breathing.

In contrast with other respiratory illnesses, it is preventable, given its main cause is smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke; other risk factors include air pollution and exposure to toxic substances.

In addition, people who have COPD have a bigger risk of having lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other severe health problems.

Who is affected by COPD?

In Spain, about 2.5 million people have COPD, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the country and the third worldwide. It is mostly found in adults between 40 and 80 years old, and the group with the most cases is men between 70 and 80.

Although historically it has impacted men three times as much as women, the rate of women who have COPD has increased in the last decades, given that more women have taken up smoking.

COPD symptoms

The clearest symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are cough with sputum (mucus), shortness of breath, wheezing when breathing and chest tightness, in addition to a chronic lack of energy.

It can be diagnosed through a spirometry test, which is also used to monitor the progression of the disease and its symptoms.

COPD treatment

COPD is part of the list of incurable diseases with a gradual evolution. However, there are treatments to reduce its symptoms.

The main treatment is inhaled medication (bronchodilators), antibiotics or anti-inflammatories, in addition to home respiratory therapies, such as oxygen therapy and non-invasive mechanical ventilation for more severe cases. Pulmonary rehabilitation can also help patients to live better with this condition.

Healthy habits like giving up smoking, exercising and eating healthy foods are key to improving the quality of life of patients.

Oxygen therapy

It consists of administering oxygen at a higher concentration than it is found in the air (21 %) to treat hypoxia.
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Mechanical ventilation

A treatment that mechanically assists or substitutes the breathing of the patient through electromedical ventilators.
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Chest physiotherapy

Interdisciplinary intervention and fundamental clinical treatment of some patients with respiratory.
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Other respiratory illnesses

Obstructive sleep apnoea

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder.
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A chronic respiratory illness in which the airways narrow or swell.
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COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
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Group of diseases that have an effect on the pulmonary interstitium.
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Cystic fibrosis

Chronic, hereditary and degenerative disease that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs.
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Pulmonary hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects arteries and blood vessels that supply the lungs.
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Other respiratory conditions

Other respiratory illnesses: common cold, flu, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, allergies, rhinitis, etc.
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