COPD Severity

COPD Severity

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD is the name for a collection of lung diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.

COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK. It usually only starts to affect people over the age of 35, although most people are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s. There are over 3 million people living with the disease in the UK, of which only 900,000 have been diagnosed, many people develop symptoms of COPD and don’t get medical help because they often dismiss their symptoms as a ‘Smokers Cough’.

COPD will cause difficulty breathing due to the narrowing of airways known as airflow obstruction.

The main cause of COPD is smoking. The likehood of developing COPD increases the more you smoke and the longer you’ve been smoking. This is because smoking irritates and inflames the lungs, the inflammation leads to permanent changes of the lungs, the airways thicken and more mucus is produced, damage to the delicate walls of the air sacs in the lungs causes emphysema and the lungs lose their normal elasticity. These changes cause symptoms of breathlessness, cough and phlegm associated with COPD. Some cases of COPD are caused by fumes, dust, air pollution and genetic disorders, but these are rarer, COPD affects more men than women, although rates in women are increasing.*

­­­­­For Smokers and ex-smokers with COPD, knowing your pack years will help to identify the severity of your COPD;

  • Number of cigarettes per day x number of years smoked ÷ 20 = pack years

Example (20 cigarettes per day for the last 10 years would be – 20 x 10 ÷20 = 10 pack years)

Smokers and ex-smokers with a smoking history of at least 10 pack years will be more likely to have moderate to severe COPD.



*Wwwnhsuk. (2016). Wwwnhsuk. Retrieved 20 July, 2016, from


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