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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, or colloquially as chronic bronchitis, is a very common respiratory disease. It is responsible for many deaths each year in France and deteriorating living conditions of many patients. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease causes chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes and difficulty breathing. It is caused in nearly nine out of ten cases by tobacco, but it can also affect some people who work or live in an area highly exposed to fumes or pollution. Management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease involves many medical and paramedical treatments. They do not cure the disease, but are intended to improve the lives of patients.


Because chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a poorly understood disease, its diagnosis is often delayed. It is generally a persistent cough that brings a smoker patient to consult a health professional. To diagnose a possible COPD, the GP conducts a medical examination including quantifying the amount and duration of exposure to tobacco as well as a clinical examination. He may prescribe additional tests such as:
  • a pulmonary function test (PFT), to assess lung volumes;
  • a test allowing you to see the improvement of bronchial obstruction after using a bronchodilator;
  • a blood gas analysis;
  • chest X-ray;
  • occasionally, a stress test that evaluates cardiac function during physical effort.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is characterized by a strong persistent cough lasting for several months and that generates lots of sputum. Additionally, chronic respiratory difficulties tend to settle, and then get progressively worse, initially for major physical efforts and ultimately even at rest. The patient sees his health deteriorate little by little.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Its evolution is marked by periods called exacerbations, where symptoms experience a transient increase. However, there are many medical treatments that improve the lives of patients, namely:
  • bronchodilators;
  • corticosteroids, whose interest is however questionable;
  • In advanced stages, the use of oxygen or mechanical ventilation may be a necessary remedy.

Of course, quitting tobacco use is imperative.


Whether to prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or to treat it, it is essential to quit smoking. One should also wear a mask when exposed to pollution in some highly-exposed areas. In patients with COPD, the annual preventive vaccination against influenza and the pneumococcal vaccine every five years can prevent some exacerbations.

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