We have published revised versions of the OMRON Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. Your use of our products and services is subject to these revised terms.

This website uses cookies. By continuing to browse through this website, you agree to our Cookie Policy which has been revised in May 2018.

Allow cookies
OMRON nebulizer for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease which is characterised by persistent respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation.

What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive lung disease which is characterised by persistent respiratory symptoms and airflow limitation. The airflow limitation is associated with airway or alveolar irregularities provoked by significant exposure to noxious particles or gases. The chronic airflow limitation is caused by a combination of small airways disease like obstructive bronchiolitis and parenchymal destruction.


Common COPD symptoms include cough and sputum production, dyspnoea and wheezing. COPD patients experience cough throughout the day. Cough in COPD is often productive of relatively small amounts of sputum which is usually purulent. Breathlessness or dyspnoea is the symptom that produces most disability in COPD. It occurs usually with exertion, and as the disease progresses, dyspnoea may occur while at rest. Wheezing is the result of bronchial muscle contraction and structural narrowing of the airways.

Other COPD signs and symptoms may also include the following:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Haemoptysis – occurring in exacerbations of COPD
  • Weakness – possibly due to deconditioning or cellular changes in peripheral muscles
  • Weight loss – result of anorexia, decreased caloric intake, and increased metabolism
  • Psychiatric morbidity – result of depression and interrupted sleep quality

Causes and risk factors

Tobacco smoking is the most commonly encountered cause of COPD worldwide. Smoking other types of tobacco, such as pipe and cigar, and marijuana can also place the smoker at risk for COPD.

Non-smokers may also develop COPD when associated with long-term exposure to particles and noxious gases. Host factors including genetics, airway hyper-responsiveness and poor lung growth during childhood can be COPD causes, too.

Additionally, cumulative exposure to outdoor, indoor and occupational air pollution is a COPD risk factor. Indoor air pollution is caused by the burning of woods and biomass fuels.


According to the U.K. National Health Services, COPD can be treated by lifestyle changes, medicines, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy and surgery, to help improve the overall wellness of the COPD patient and slow the progress of the disease.

Major lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, avoiding lung irritants, and creating a COPD diet plan as well as a physical activity plan with a doctor.

Medications that are recommended for treating COPD can come in a liquid form (inhaled or nebulized medications) or in tablets or capsules (orally taken medications).

  • Inhaled medications for treating COPD include bronchodilators, or a combination of bronchodilators and inhaled glucocorticosteroids (inhaled steroids). Bronchodilators reduce airway limitation as they relax the muscles around the airways. If the symptoms flare up often, the doctor may recommend using both bronchodilators and inhaled steroids. Inhaled steroids help reduce the inflammation in the airway, but taking inhaled steroids alone is not recommended. These medicines usually come in an inhaler. In a more severe case of COPD, nebulized medications are prescribed. Such medications can be delivered directly to the airways and lungs using a nebulizer, which allows a larger amount of medicine to be taken at once.
  • Orally-taken medications such as theophylline tablets, mucolytic tablets or capsules, steroid tablets and antibiotics may be prescribed by the doctor or a COPD specialist to reduce some COPD symptoms that cannot be controlled by inhaled medicines.

Pulmonary rehabilitation is aimed at treating patients with chronic breathing problems. It is a broad programme which may include an exercise programme, a disease management training, and nutritional and psychological counselling.

Oxygen therapy can help improve the breathing of a patient with severe COPD who has low oxygen levels in the blood. The patient may need oxygen all the time or at certain times, which can be given using nasal prongs or a mask.

Surgery may be considered when the COPD symptoms are severe and have not been improved by taking medicines. Surgical treatment options associated with treating COPD include bullectomy, lung volume reduction surgery, and lung transplant.


  1. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructuve Lung Disease. (2017). Pocket Guide to COPD diagnosis, management, and prevention. Retrieved from http://goldcopd.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/wms-GOLD-2017-Pocket-Guide.pdf
  2. National Health Services. (2016, September 05). Treatments for COPD. Retrieved from NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/Pages/Treatment.aspx
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2013, July 31). How is COPD treated? Retrieved from National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/treatment