Which Diseases are Considered COPD?

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDMarch 28th, 2021

According to the American Lung Association, more than 16.4 million people have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But, there are millions more who don’t know they have it—making it important for individuals to understand what COPD is and its symptoms.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a long-term lung condition that affects one’s ability to breathe over time. While COPD is one term, it umbrellas multiple chronic inflammatory lung diseases—the most common being:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema

Both emphysema and chronic bronchitis are considered COPD because they are progressive lung diseases, meaning their symptoms—shortness of breath and labored breathing—will worsen over time regardless of treatment. That said, some treatments can help slow the diseases’ progression and help those with COPD live as comfortably as they can with their mild symptoms. Some physicians also believe that refractory or nonreversible asthma—a type of asthma that doesn’t respond to normal medications—should be classified as COPD, however ongoing research is still being performed to back that grouping. Here’s a closer look at the two most recognized forms of COPD:

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a serious lung disease that’s characterized by recurrent episodes of acute bronchitis that last for several months or years. This chronic condition inflames the lining of the bronchial tubes, causing an excessive amount of post-nasal drip (mucus) to build up in your airways. The resulting blockage in airflow will get worse over time and can lead to breathing difficulties as well as increased mucus production. The latter can cause long-term damage to the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs), which is why many people who have chronic bronchitis will eventually develop emphysema.


While those with chronic bronchitis can eventually develop emphysema, those with emphysema may not develop chronic bronchitis. Unlike chronic bronchitis, emphysema is typically the direct result of smoking cigarettes or long-term exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. This form of COPD can also be found in people who are exposed to certain workplace or environmental hazards, particularly exposure to lung irritants like pollutants, fumes, and fuels. Inhaling these particles can result in damage to the alveoli in the lungs. As the alveoli weaken and break, the surface area of the lungs is destroyed—impacting the amount of oxygen that can effectively reach the bloodstream.

DispatchHealth & COPD


While treatments for COPD symptoms exist, there is still no cure—exacerbations can and will happen. When they do, turn to DispatchHealth. We serve people living with COPD, helping them receive advanced medical care for their exacerbated symptoms. Our on-demand service brings the support you need to your home, ensuring you have the opportunity to benefit from comprehensive medical attention without the added stress of arranging for transportation. Best of all, we’re in-network with most insurances.To learn more about how DispatchHealth responds to visit requests or to request care today, simply contact us via phone, mobile app, or website. We are rapidly growing and covering new markets across the country!


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/copd/index.html
The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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