Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) happens when your airways and lungs become damaged and inflamed. COPD is often caused by exposure to harmful chemicals, for example smoking, pollution or work based hazards.
Always ensure you have help close at hand; order COPD treatment online.
Here’s what's included in the price:
Answer a few questions about your health so we can get to know you better.
Free 24h delivery
Your treatment delivered in secure packaging, the very next day.
We’ll check in with you regularly to see how your treatment is going.
COPD is the general term used for a range of chronic and debilitating respiratory illnesses that affect the lungs and airways, making it harder to breathe.
Common examples of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which are characterised by difficulty in breathing, lung or airflow restrictions and coughing. But there can be a range of other symptoms that vary in severity and differ from person to person.
COPD is a progressive condition which tends to get worse over time. Treatment can help to slow down COPD worsening, and limit symptoms like inflammation and tightening of the airways.
Who gets COPD?
Whilst it can be caused or made worse by a range of factors, smoking is the leading cause of COPD.
But there’s also increasing evidence to suggest that air pollution is also a major cause, especially in developing countries - where an estimated 25-45% of people with COPD have no history of smoking. Genetics can also contribute, and those with the genetic condition Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency are at greater risk of developing COPD - a condition thought to be more common than diagnosis figures suggest.
How common is COPD?
COPD is quite common worldwide. Historically, it’s been more widespread in men than women - according to one analysis of figures that covered 2004 to 2015, the overall prevalence in men aged 30 years or more was estimated to be around 15.7%, compared to 9.9% in women. It’s been theorised that this was because men were more likely to be smokers.
But recent figures suggest that globally, the condition is more common in women than in men (56% vs 44%). It’s not known exactly why, but one study has noted that a higher prevalence in women in self-reported data sets (maybe suggesting that women are more likely to go and seek advice and diagnosis for symptoms than men.)
When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.
What causes COPD?
COPD is mainly caused by exposure to harmful particles and gases, which leads to difficulty breathing. It’s a chronic inflammation of the airways, lung tissue, alveoli and blood vessels, which narrows the airways. This can cause the overproduction of thick mucus, the loss of alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs that help exchange oxygen and CO2) and high blood pressure. It can also lead to other chronic lung problems if it’s not treated.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
Symptoms of COPD can vary from person to person. But the main symptoms many people get include:
shortness of breath
production of sputum (thick mucus)
Other common symptoms may include:
feeling very tired
barrel chest (where your chest looks like you’re breathing in all the time)
distant breath sounds
poor air movement
Less common symptoms can also include:
tachypnoea (abnormally rapid breathing)
low extremity swelling, such as in your ankles
cyanosis (bluish skin or lips)
loud P2 (loud heart sounds)
hepatojugular reflux (distension of the neck veins)
hepatosplenomegaly (swollen liver and spleen)
clubbing (abnormal changes in the areas under and around the fingernails and toenails)
Can COPD lead to other problems?
Without effective treatment and lifestyle changes, COPD becomes a degenerative condition: sometimes called exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (ECOPD). It’s also been linked to other related diseases such as lung cancer, recurrent pneumonia, respiratory failure, and anemia.
People suffering with COPD are also more likely to catch common colds, influenza, and pneumonia. It’s currently estimated to be the third-leading cause of death in the world, and responsible for 6% of all world deaths.
Quitting smoking and reducing exposure to lung irritants instantly decreases the risk of infections and other conditions. It’s also recommended that everyone who has COPD has a pneumonia vaccination, as well as an annual flu shot, to reduce their risk of infection.
What medications are there for COPD?
There isn’t a cure for COPD and it isn’t reversible, but there are a range of treatments available which can help manage and improve your symptoms.
Most are inhalers, and there are two main types:
Bronchodilators. These open the airways, allowing air to flow more freely through them. This, in turn, helps to relieve symptoms such as wheezing and breathlessness. The two main types of bronchodilator are beta-2 agonist inhalers and antimuscarinic inhalers.
Beta-2 agonist inhalers work by relaxing the muscles and helping to dilate (widen) the airways, whereas antimuscarinic inhalers reduce tightness in the muscle wall of your respiratory passages. These can be used for short term and immediate relief, and are usually used a few times a day to help improve symptoms.
If your symptoms persist, you might use a long-acting bronchodilator. These work in a similar way to short-acting bronchodilators, but each dose will last for a longer period (usually 12 hours or more). As a result, they don’t need to be used as often (maybe only once or twice a day).
Steroid inhalers. These are usually prescribed to work alongside a bronchodilator. They contain corticosteroid medicines, which can help to reduce inflammation in the airways.
Tablets or capsules might also be prescribed, such as theophylline tablets. They are a type of bronchodilator which can help to reduce swelling in the airways and relax the muscles that line them.
Is there a ‘best’ treatment for COPD?
This will depend on your symptoms. Treatments are often combined to help them be more effective. If you’re not sure what treatment might be best for you, we can help you to narrow down some options.
Besides treatment, there are other things you can do to help COPD. Always try to reduce exposure to any harmful chemicals or irritants wherever possible, and try to quit or cut down on your cigarette use if you’re a smoker.
Gentle exercise can increase breathing ability, help ease symptoms and prevent severe attacks as well.
Have something specific you want to know? Search our info below, or ask our experts a question if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
How is COPD diagnosed?
Usually COPD is diagnosed by discussing your symptoms with a clinician, an examination of your chest and breathing, and talking over potential lifestyle factors: such as smoking or work-based hazards and increased exposure to pollution. Your body mass index (BMI) might also be calculated using your height and weight, as this might worsen your symptoms. A clinician might also look at your personal and family medical history, and evidence of any lung conditions.
A breathing test called a spirometry might also be done, which will show you how well your lungs are performing. A chest x-ray may also be advised, to check that it’s not something with similar symptoms to COPD, such as a chest infection. And finally, blood tests can sometimes be done to rule out other conditions, or to see if there’s evidence of alpha-1-antitrypain deficiency, which increases the risk of COPD.
Can you get side effects from COPD treatment?
As with all medicines, side effects can vary from person to person. The most common side effects of COPD treatments include: headaches, feeling or being sick, experiencing a dry mouth and coughing immediately after treatment, such as with the inhalers. Higher doses of steroids are usually only prescribed for short-term use, as they can cause side effects such as a sore throat, a hoarse voice, oral thrush, and nosebleeds.
Specific advice on possible side effects can be found on our product pages, your patient information leaflet, or by talking to one of our clinicians.
Does COPD treatment always work?
A range of treatments are proven to be effective at reducing the symptoms of COPD and stopping the condition from getting worse. However, it’s important to remember that damage to the lungs cannot be reversed, so treatments will relieve symptoms but won’t reverse the development of COPD.
It’s important to always use any treatments that you’ve been prescribed correctly, and combine them with suitable lifestyle changes in order to get the best out of them.
Why should I buy COPD treatment online with Treated?
Let’s make your prescriptions easier. Talk to us to get personalised advice from an expert, and easy access to your regular treatment. We’ll also check in with you regularly to see how your treatment is going, and you can ask our clinicians a question any time you need to. If you need to switch treatments or think you might be better on something else, we’ll help you find the best option for you.
Varmaghani, M., Dehghani, M., Heidari, E., Sharifi, F., Moghaddam, S. S., & Farzadfar, F. (2019).
Global prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eastern Mediterranean health journal = La revue de sante de la Mediterranee orientale = al-Majallah al-sihhiyah li-sharq al-mutawassit, 25(1), 47–57.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a doctor.
This treatment category isn't suitable for the gender you have selected.
If you made a mistake on the gender selection, you can amend this by pressing 'Cancel' below and changing your gender. If you entered the correct gender but made a mistake on the treatment category selection, you can choose a different category by pressing 'Choose other treatment' below.