What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the collective name for lung diseases including:

  • emphysema
  • chronic bronchitis.

It is estimated to impact almost 1.5 million people across Australia.

COPD is not cancer, but the main cause of the disease is active smoking, or exposure to smoking.

These are long term diseases that are not curable, but can be treatable.

What causes COPD?

Smoking is the greatest cause of COPD.

People most at risk of COPD are 35 years or older and have a history of smoking or occupational exposure to dust, gas and/or fumes.

Stopping smoking at any age will reduce your risk of COPD. If you have COPD already, stopping smoking can slow the rate of progress for the disease and improve symptoms.

What does it feel like?

COPD can leave a person feeling short of breath – it can feel like permanently breathing through a straw.

With every breath, people with the disease will find it difficult to take in and expel enough air.

In an emotional message, TV personality Larry Emdur describes sitting at Bondi Beach with his father, no longer able to enjoy the sand, sun and water.

“Every word had to be measured, every sentence he had to think through before he started on it to make sure he had enough breath.”



What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of COPD include:

  • breathlessness
  • susceptibility to chest infections
  • cough and phlegm production
  • fatigue.

If you have any of these symptoms, see your GP.  COPD is not curable but it can be more effectively treated if it is diagnosed early.

For help and information on how to quit smoking visit www.icanquit.com.au or call Quitline on 13 QUIT (13 78 48).

You can find more about treatments and medicines for managing symptons in  COPD from NPS MedicineWise.

How many people does COPD impact in Australia?

Lung Foundation Australia estimates almost 1.5 million Australians have a form of COPD, representing approximately one in seven Australians over the age of 40.

In 2014, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says nearly 7,000 deaths in Australia were attributable to COPD.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show COPD accounted for 4.5 per cent of all deaths in Australia in 2014, compared to 3.7 per cent in 2005.