What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

The term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is commonly used to describe a person who has:

  • chronic bronchitis;
  • emphysema;
  • chronic asthma that is not fully reversible; or
  • a combination of these conditions.

COPD is the new and preferred term, although you may still hear it referred to using the terms chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD) and chronic airflow limitation (CAL). Chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic asthma are common long term lung conditions that cause shortness of breath. Each condition can occur separately, but many people have a mixture of these conditions.