What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common lung disease. This lung and airways disease restricts the airways making it difficult to breathe. However, not many Singaporeans are aware of this disease. In fact, 60% of Singaporeans have not heard of it. It is also often misdiagnosed as a case of asthma.

There are two main forms of COPD:

1. Chronic Bronchitis

Involves a long-term cough with mucous

2. Emphysema

Involves a long-term damage to the lungs

Most people who experience COPD may often times experience both forms of the disease at the same time.


Smoking is the main cause of COPD. Smokers are affected by this condition in which their lungs are damaged by the prolonged effects of tobacco.

Other risk factors include:

    • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
    • Exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution
  • Frequent use of a cooking fire without proper ventilation


Symptoms may include the following but because the symptoms develop slowly, some people may not know that they have COPD.


COPD is often misdiagnosed as asthma.

This may be the result of both conditions sharing  a variety of common symptoms, which can make it difficult to determine which condition patients maybe suffering from.

To diagnose a patient’s condition, the doctor will review his/her signs and symptoms, discuss family and medical history, and discuss any exposure to lung irritants — especially cigarette smoke. The doctor may then order several tests to confirm this diagnosis.


Spirometry measures the rate of air flow and estimates lung size. For the test, the patient will breathe multiple times, with regular and deep breaths, through a tube that is connected to a computer.

Other Tests

Your doctor may recommend other tests, such as A chest x ray or chest CT scan. These tests shows the structures within your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. The pictures can show signs of COPD. They also may show whether another condition, such as heart failure, is causing your symptoms.

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