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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. People with COPD have trouble breathing in and out. This is referred to as airflow obstruction.


Breathing difficulties are caused by long-term damage to the lungs, usually because of smoking. COPD is a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke or used to smoke. Most people with COPD do not have any noticeable symptoms until they reach their late 40s or 50s.

*COPD is included in the Chronic Disease Management programme.


Symptoms of COPD

Common symptoms of COPD include:

  • increasing shortness of breath - can wake you up during the night or happen when you start exercise

  • a persistent chesty cough with phlegm that never seems to go away

  • frequent chest infections

  • persistent wheezing


The symptoms will usually get worse over time and make daily activities difficult to do. Treatment can help slow the progression.

Sometimes your symptoms may suddenly get worse. This is known as a flare-up or exacerbation. It's common to have a few flare-ups a year, particularly during the winter.

Useful Links

  • HSE COPD - Guide to the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and risks of COPD from the HSE.

  • - COPD Support Ireland is a charity set up to support all those living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

  • - get help to quit smoking.

  • See our Healthier Living page for advice on how to improve your health, manage your weight, quit smoking or reduce your alcohol intake. 

This content of this page (and links to other sites) is for general information purposes only and does not substitute medical advice. While we endeavour to keep this website up-to-date, errors may occur. We advise all patients to discuss their health concerns with their GP. If you would like to suggest amendments or highlight new information that could be useful to others please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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