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Overview of the Three Types of COPD


Updated June 09, 2014

COPD is an umbrella term for a broad classification of disorders that are characterized by obstruction of the airways and limitation to airflow. Diseases that fall under the scope of COPD include emphysema , chronic bronchitis and bronchiectasis. While each disease follows a specific developmental course, in general, each has one thing in common -- some type of airway irritant that led to its development. In fact, there are 4 common causes of COPD that are totally preventable.

To follow is an overview of the 3 types of COPD and their management:


Emphysema is a common type of COPD in which the air sacs of the lungs become damaged, causing them to enlarge and burst. Damage in this area makes it difficult for people with emphysema to expel air from their lungs. This leads to a build up of carbon dioxide in the body and a myriad of emphysema signs and symptoms.

Learn more about emphysema:

What is Emphysema?

How is Emphysema Diagnosed?

Managing Emphysema Treatment

The Facts About Oxygen Therapy

Alpha-1-Antitrypsin Deficiency: A Genetic Cause of Emphysema

Chronic Bronchitis:

Chronic bronchitis causes inflammation and irritation of the airways, the tubes in your lungs where air passes through. When the air tubes are inflamed and irritated, thick mucus begins to form in them. Over time, this mucus plugs up airways and makes breathing difficult.

Discover how to manage chronic bronchitis:

What is Chronic Bronchitis?

Do I Have Symptoms of Chronic Bronchitis?

Making a Diagnosis of Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic Bronchitis Treatment Options

Pulmonary Rehabilitation


Bronchiectasis is characterized by an abnormal enlargement of the airways which is due to recurrent inflammation and infection. When the airways become enlarged, extra mucus forms in them and pools in the widened areas, leading to infection. Airway obstruction also occurs due to damage to the cilia, the tiny protective hairs responsible for airway clearance. This results in a cycle of repeated inflammation, infection and airway obstruction.

Find out more about bronchiectasis:

What is Bronchiectasis?

Could I Have Bronchiectasis?

How is Bronchiectasis Diagnosed?

Treatment of Bronchiectasis

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