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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is a chronic lung condition that affects your lung tissue and airways. We look at its symptoms and how it can be diagnosed.

COPD is a chronic lung condition which affects the lung tissue and the airways. The condition is an umbrella diagnosis for several other lung conditions when they co-exist including:

  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis

The changes with COPD include damage to the lung tissue (alveoli) which results in larger, air filled sacs forming known as bullae. Persistent inflammation to the lung tissue and the airways produce excess secretions in these areas and the muscles around the airways may spasm and reduce airflow.

Our respiratory experts at are able to provide the long term monitoring and treatment that individuals with this progressive condition need.

Shortness of breath due to a combination of poor diffusion of oxygen in the lungs and increased work of breathing due to airflow restriction is the most common symptom of COPD.

Another common symptom of COPD is repeated lung infections due to the persistent overproduction of secretions within the airways and lungs.

Chronic infections, increased work of breathing and persistently poor oxygen levels also leads to high fatigue levels and sometimes weight loss in sufferers of COPD.

Our expert respiratory doctors will be able to preliminary diagnose COPD based on the typical history of the condition and symptoms. Our doctors will examine aspects of breathing and listen to the airflow within the lungs and airways using a specialised instrument known as a stethoscope.

Additional clinical tests which may confirm the diagnosis of COPD include xrays which may demonstrate the characteristic signs of scarring to the lungs and the development of bullae. Lung function tests may also demonstrate characteristic signs of COPD. Blood tests may confirm the diagnosis with abnormal oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

In standard cases of COPD respiratory doctors will recommend changes to lifestyle, especially stopping smoking in patients who have persisted as well as regular, monitored cardiovascular exercise. Inhalers and other medications may be prescribed to limit sputum production and lung tissue inflammation.

Lung infections are treated with oral antibiotics targeted, of needed to the strain of bacteria causing the infection. When infections become more serious, antibiotics may be prescribed through a drip (intravenously).

Oxygen therapy may be prescribed in more severe cases of COPD when sufferers are in significant respiratory distress on room air. However, due to complex changes on sufferers’ ability to regulate their breathing cycle oxygen therapy needs to be carefully monitored by expert respiratory clinicians.

Specialists Offering Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Dr Sushen Bhattacharyya

Consultant Physician & Geriatrician

MBBS (Gold Medal), DTM&H (Gold Medal), FRCP

BMI The Clementine Churchill Hospital

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Dr Enson Thomas

Consultant Respiratory Physician


BMI The Manor Hospital 2 more BMI The Saxon Clinic BMI Three Shires Hospital

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Dr Jonathan Owen

Consultant Respiratory Physician


BMI Sarum Road Hospital

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Dr Simon Horner

Consultant Physician & Cardiologist

MA(Cantab), MBBS, FRCP, MD

BMI The Alexandra Hospital

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Professor Stuart Rosen

Consultant Cardiologist


BMI Syon Clinic

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Dr Richard Barraclough

Consultant Chest Physician


BMI The Alexandra Hospital

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