Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) makes it hard for you to breathe. The two main types are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The main cause of COPD is long-term exposure to substances that irritate and damage the lungs. This is usually due to cigarette smoke, Air pollution, chemical fumes, or even dust.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

The main symptoms of COPD are:

  • increasing breathlessness, particularly when you're active.
  • persistent chesty cough with phlegm – some people may dismiss this as just a "smoker's cough".
  • frequent chest infections.
  • persistent wheezing.

Without treatment, the symptoms usually get slowly worse. There may also be periods when they get suddenly worse, known as a flare-up or exacerbation.

What are the causes of COPD?

1.    Smoking.

Smoking is the main cause of COPD and is thought to be responsible for around 9 in every 10 cases.

The harmful chemicals in smoke can damage the lining of the lungs and airways. Stopping smoking can help stop COPD getting worse.
Some research has also suggested that being exposed to other people's smoke (passive smoking) may increase your risk of COPD.

2.    Fumes and dust at work.

Exposure to certain types of dust and chemicals at work may damage the lungs and increase your risk of COPD.

Substances that have been linked to COPD include:

  • cadmium dust and fumes.
  • grain and flour dust.
  • silica dust.
  • welding fumes.
  • isocyanates.
  • coal dust.

3.    Air pollution.

Exposure to air pollution over a long period can affect how well the lungs work and some research has suggested it could increase your risk of COPD.

But at the moment the link between air pollution and COPD isn't conclusive and research is continuing.

4.    Genetics.

You're more likely to develop COPD if you smoke and have a close relative with the condition, suggesting some people's genes may make them more vulnerable to the condition.

How is COPD Diagnosed?

They may also carry out or arrange for you to have a breathing test called spirometry and some of the other tests described below.


Spirometry: A test called spirometry can help show how well your lungs are working.
You'll be asked to breathe into a machine called a spirometer after inhaling a medication called a bronchodilator, which helps widen your airways.

The spirometer takes two measurements: the volume of air you can breathe out in one second, and the total amount of air you breathe out. You may be asked to breathe out a few times to get a consistent reading.
The readings are compared with normal results for your age, which can show if your airways are obstructed.


Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray can be used to look for problems in the lungs that can cause similar symptoms to COPD.
Problems that can show up on an X-ray include chest infections and lung cancer, although these don't always show up.


Blood tests: A blood test can pick up other conditions that can cause similar symptoms to COPD, such as low iron levels (anemia) and a high concentration of red blood cells in your blood (polycythaemia).
Sometimes a blood test may also be carried out to see if you have alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. This is a rare genetic problem that increases your risk of COPD.

How is COPD treated?

The best way to slow COPD is to quit smoking. This is the most important thing you can do. It is never too late to quit. No matter how long you have smoked or how serious your COPD is, quitting smoking can help stop the damage to your lungs.

Your doctor can prescribe treatments that may help you manage your symptoms and feel better.

  • Medicines can help you breathe easier. Most of them are inhaled so they go straight to your lungs. If you get an inhaler, it is very important to use it just the way your health provider shows you.
  • A lung (pulmonary) rehab program can help you learn to manage your disease. A team of health professionals can provide counseling and teach you how to breathe easier, exercise, and eat well.
  • In time, you may need to use oxygen some or most of the time.

People who have COPD are more likely to get lung infections, so you will need to get a flu vaccine every year. You should also get a pneumococcal shot. It may not keep you from getting pneumonia. But if you do get pneumonia, you probably won't be as sick.

Tip to Live with COPD

1.    Exercise regularly:

Exercising regularly can help improve your symptoms and quality of life.

The amount of exercise you can do will depend on your individual circumstances. Exercising until you're a little breathless isn't dangerous, but don't push yourself too far.
It's a good idea to speak to your GP for advice before starting a new exercise programme.
You may be advised to participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation programme, which will include a structured exercise plan tailored to your needs and ability.

2.    Maintain a healthy weight:

Carrying extra weight can make breathlessness worse, so it's a good idea to lose weight through a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet if you're overweight.

You may see a dietitian as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program if necessary.

3.    Get vaccinated:

Everyone with COPD is encouraged to have the annual flu jab and the one-off pneumococcal vaccination. You can get these vaccinations at your GP surgery or a local pharmacy that offers a vaccination service.

4.    Check the weather:

Cold spells and periods of hot weather and humidity can cause breathing problems if you have COPD.

It's a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast and make sure you have enough of your medication to hand in case your symptoms get temporarily worse.

5.    Watch what you breathe:

There are certain things that should be avoided if possible to reduce COPD symptoms and the chances of a flare-up, including:

  • dusty places.
  • fumes, such as car exhausts.
  • smoke.
  • air freshener sprays or plug-ins.
  • strong-smelling cleaning products (unless there's plenty of ventilation).
  • hairspray.
  • perfume.

Does my Insurance Policy covers COPD?

Yes. According to CCHI unified Policy terms and conditions, health insurance policies in Saudi Arabia cover the treatment of COPD.

Please Click Here to access the Unified CCHI Policy Wordings.


"Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)." Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). N.p., 5 Sept. 2016. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)." COPD Health Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.
“Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” Rules. N.p., n.d. Web. Aug. 2016.