Chronic respiratory diseases

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is not one single disease but an umbrella term used to describe chronic lung diseases that cause limitations in lung airflow. The more familiar terms 'chronic bronchitis' and 'emphysema' are no longer used, but are now included within the COPD diagnosis.

The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, or a 'need for air', excessive sputum production, and a chronic cough. However, COPD is not just simply a "smoker's cough", but a under-diagnosed, life threatening lung disease that may progressively lead to death.

Main risk factors for COPD

  • Tobacco smoking
  • Indoor air pollution (such as biomass fuel used for cooking and heating)
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Occupational dusts and chemicals (vapours, irritants, and fumes)

More information on COPD


According to the latest WHO estimates (2004), currently 64 million people have COPD and 3 million people died of COPD. WHO predicts that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.


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Ms Laura Sminkey
Communications Officer
Tel.: +41 22 791 4547
Mob.: +41 79 249 3520