Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Info & COPD doctors

Leading Medicine Guide Editors
Leading Medicine Guide Editors

The abbreviation COPD stands for "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease". This is a collective term for chronic lung diseases. They are characterised by the narrowing of the airways and the increasing obstruction of airflow, especially when exhaling.

Here you will find further information and selected COPD specialists and centres.

ICD codes for this diseases: J44

Recommended specialists

Brief overview:

  • What is COPD? Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is defined as several chronic lung diseases which are characterised by narrowed airways
  • Frequency: 8-10% of all people in Europe and North America are affected, mostly the elderly. Men fall ill significantly more often.
  • Causes: Smoking is the main cause, 15 - 20 % of all long-time smokers develop COPD. Other factors: Childhood respiratory infections, particulate matter, air pollution, family history.
  • Symptoms: Shortness of breath, chronic cough, increased sputum - the complaints become more severe over time. Later, weight loss and reduced resilience are added.
  • Stages: Depending on the degree of lung function, five levels can be identified, ranging from pure risk group (level 0) to chronically insufficient oxygen supply (level 4).
  • Diagnosis: After the anamnesis, various examinations follow, including the lung function and allergy diagnostics, a blood test, X-rays and a bronchoscopy.
  • Treatment: Medication to dilate the bronchial tubes, physical training and physical therapy.
  • Specialists: Specialised in the treatment are pneumologists and bronchologists.

Article overview

Definition: What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases include in particular

If one of these two lung diseases is present, either individually or in combination, doctors refer to it as COPD.

Frequency of COPD

It is estimated that between 8% and 12% of adults in Europe and North America suffer from COPD. It is therefore a widespread disease.

People of advanced age are particularly often affected. Men are affected about two to three times more often than women.

COPD is also one of the most common killer diseases. Worldwide, it is the fourth most common cause of death – and the trend is still rising.

Symptoms of COPD

Typical symptoms of COPD include

  • Shortness of breath: At first, it only occurs during physical exertion, but in the advanced stages it also occurs in a resting condition,
  • Chronic cough: Gets worse and more persistent over time. It is particularly troublesome in the morning after getting up.
  • Increased sputum: Over time, increasingly tough and difficult to cough up.

Doctors also refer to these complaints as AHA symptoms in German (Atemnot, Husten Auswurf = shortness of breath, cough, sputum). In addition to these AHA symptoms, further complaints occur as the disease progresses, such as

  • Weight loss and
  • a reduced resilience.

Stages of COPD

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, doctors distinguish between the following degrees of severity of COPD. They are primarily based on the degree of lung function:

  • Level 0: Risk group with simple chronic bronchitis.
  • Stage 1: Mild chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, possibly with cough, sputum and dyspnoea on vigorous exercise.
  • Stage 2: Moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, possibly with cough, sputum and shortness of breath.
  • Stage 3: severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, possibly with cough, sputum and shortness of breath.
  • Stage 4: very severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with chronic insufficient oxygen supply.

Causes of COPD

The main cause for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is smoking. About 80% to 90% of COPD patients are smokers or former smokers. Overall, about 15% to 20% of long-time smokers develop COPD in the course of their lives.

But there are other risk factors for COPD besides smoking. These include, for example,

  • Frequent respiratory infections in childhood,
  • Living on busy roads with high particulate matter pollution or
  • Air pollution in the workplace.

In rare cases, COPD can also be caused by congenital hereditary diseases. These include, for example, the absence of defence substances (antibody deficiency syndrome) or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

Raucherlunge (COPD)

Smoking is one of the most common causes of COPD © bilderzwerg | AdobeStock

Diagnosis of COPD

For the diagnosis, the doctor first conducts a patient interview (anamnesis). He asks about the patient's medical history and the exact nature and duration of his complaints.

This is followed by various examinations, including

Under certain circumstances, the doctor may order further examinations, for example

Treatment of COPD

The aim of COPD treatment is to alleviate the symptoms caused by the disease and to maintain or improve the patient's quality of life.

Various therapeutic measures are available for this, including

  • drug treatment with special bronchodilators for inhalation, and
  • various non-drug treatment approaches such as physical training and physical therapies.

Which specialists and specialist clinics treat COPD?

The treatment of COPD is carried out by lung specialists from the following medical fields pneumology and bronchology.

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