Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – Key Facts

COPD is a lung disease caused by a persistent blockage of airflow from the lungs. COPD is a life threatening disease that interferes with normal breathing.


COPD has one prevalent symptom – breathlessness. Other symptoms include abnormal sputum (a mix of saliva and mucus in the airway) and a chronic cough. Every day activities such as climbing stairs or carrying a heavy bag an become difficult over time as the condition worsens.

Diagnosis and treatment

A simple test called a ‘spirometry’ will confirm if you have COPD. This test measures how much a person can inhale and exhale, and how fast air can travel into and out of the lungs.  COPD is a condition that develops slowly. People over the age of 40 frequently have it diagnosed.

The condition is not curable. However, treatment can help control the symptoms and also increase the quality of life of sufferers.

Risk factors

COPD is preventable. The primary cause of COPD is tobacco smoke (including second-hand or passive exposure). Other risk factors include:

  • indoor air pollution (such as solid fuel used for cooking and heating);
  • outdoor air pollution;
  • occupational dusts and chemicals (vapours, irritants, and fumes);
  • frequent lower respiratory infections during childhood.

Key Facts

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a life-threatening lung disease that interferes with normal breathing – it is more than a “smoker’s cough”.
  • An estimated 64 million(*) people had COPD worldwide in 2004.
  • More than 3 million people died of COPD in 2005, which is equal to 5% of all deaths globally that year.
  • Almost 90% of COPD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The number of deaths from COPD has increased more than 60% over the last 20 years.

POWERbreathe is drug-free and has no side-effects or drug interactions, POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training will complement your prescribed COPD medicine, but we would recommend you speak to your medical practitioner before starting any exercise training plan.

Read more about COPD and managing your shortness of breath with breathing training.

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