What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a diagnosis for the group of lung diseases that block airflow and cause narrowing of the bronchial tubes in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

These progressive lung diseases are:

Chronic Bronchitis


Chronic Asthma

Who can get COPD?

COPD is a lung condition affecting both men and women over the age of 40, and is more commonly seen amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

COPD affects an estimated 8.8% of Indigenous Australians aged 45 and over—approximately 10,300 people, based on self-reported data, although this is likely to be an underestimate. The prevalence of COPD (across all age groups) among Indigenous Australians is 2.5 times as high as the prevalence for non-Indigenous Australians.

What are the symptoms?

COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, phlegm, mucus and/or a repetitive cough that tends to come on gradually over a couple of years.

It is important that people take an active role in managing their condition as there is no cure. By being educated about the condition and taking on activities to improve their health, the impact of COPD can be reduced resulting in an improved quality of life, recognition of when episodes of the condition are being experienced, and in return permit fewer instances occurring.

What can be done to help?

Being active and participating in an exercise program can help reduce breathlessness, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Prescription medication from a GP can help reduce symptoms allowing the sufferer to breathe more easily, improve quality of life and keep them out of hospital. Initially COPD may not have much impact on someone’s life, but as it progresses it is important to access emotional support and counselling.

The examples below have proven to help with reducing symptoms:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Initiating a regular exercise program
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a healthy, nutritious diet
  • Getting enough rest and good quality sleep
  • Regular vaccinations e.g. against flu
  • Seeing a GP for prescriptions for preventative medicines/inhalers
  • Avoiding dust, fumes, cold or very humid air that can worsen symptoms
  • Oxygen therapy – for people with advanced COPD
  • Seeking emotional support as COPD progresses

Changing a workplace environment to accommodate for a COPD sufferer is important for their health, especially if they work somewhere that exacerbates their condition.

ProActiv People can offer support, and assistance in finding work that will not exacerbate the condition.



Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

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