Glossary

When you see the doctor, he may use some words that you don’t understand. Some of the most common words are listed below.

 

Alveoli

Small air sacks in the lungs where oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide

 

Ambulatory oxygen therapy

Mobile oxygen therapy. It is called ‘ambulatory’ because it allows you to walk around while you are using it

 

Anticholinergic drugs

Drugs that make breathing easier by relaxing and widening the airways. They work by binding to receptors in the lungs called M receptors

 

Asthma

Asthma is a disease that features a narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. This narrowing can be reversed by treatment with bronchodilators

 

Bacteria

An organism consisting of a single cell. Bacteria can cause illness in humans. An infection that is caused by a bacteria is called a bacterial infection

 

Beta-2 agonist

Drugs that make breathing easier by relaxing and widening the airways. They work by binding to beta-2 receptors in the airways

 

Bronchi

The two big airways that take air from the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs. One bronchi goes to the left lung, and one to the right lung

 

Bronchioles

The smaller airways that take air from the bronchi to the lungs. About 24 bronchioles branch off each bronchi and go deep into the lungs, delivering air to the alveoli

 

Bronchitis

Inflammation of one or more of the bronchi. This is usually caused by infection

 

Bronchodilator

Any medicine that acts by dilating the bronchi and bronchioles

 

Chronic

A disease that is persistent or long-lasting is known as a chronic disease (compared to a disease that lasts a short period of time, which is known as an acute disease)

 

Cilia

Hair-like cells that sweep away dust and mucus from the lungs. They beat in one direction (upwards) so particles are driven up to the throat where they are swallowed or coughed out

 

Corticosteroid

Corticosteroid drugs work by reducing inflammation. Usually given as inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for the long-term management of COPD. Tablet preparations are often given during acute exacerbations

 

Emphysema

Damage to the air sacks (alveoli) so that the walls break down, making the air sacks bigger. This makes the lungs less able to transfer oxygen to the blood to supply the rest of the body

 

Exacerbation

The sudden worsening of a disease or its symptoms

 

FEV1

Forced Expiratory Volume. The total amount of air that can be breathed out of the lungs in one second. See FVC (Forced Vital Capacity)

 

FVC

Forced Vital Capacity. This is the total amount of air that can be breathed out with maximum effort and without time constraints

 

Inflammation

Swelling is a response of the body to infection or damage

 

Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS)

Corticosteroids that are taken using an inhaler

 

Long-acting bronchodilator

A bronchodilator makes breathing easier by relaxing and widening the airways. They are used to improve symptoms of breathlessness. Long-acting bronchodilators have a long duration of action and are intended for long-term treatment, compared to short-acting bronchodilators which are used to relieve symptoms as they occur

 

Long-term oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy that is used regularly, over prolonged periods of time. It is usually used for around 15 hours a day

 

Mucus/Phlem/Sputum

Mucus is produced in the airways to warm and moisturise the air before it reaches the lungs. It also traps foreign bodies or infectious agents before they reach the lungs. It is also called sputum or phlegm

 

Nebulizer

A device that delivers a drug by pumping a jet of air or oxygen through a solution of the drug, to produce a fine mist. This is then breathed in through a mask

 

Oral (tablet)

Any medicine that is swallowed

 

Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF)

A measure of how quickly the air can be expelled from the lungs. This measurement is carried out using a peak flow meter

 

Progressive

A disease is progressive if the symptoms will get worse over time

 

Pulmonary rehabilitation

A graded exercise programme designed to improve the capacity of your lungs

 

Short-acting bronchodilator

Short-acting bronchodilators are used to relieve symptoms as they occur. They usually have a rapid onset of action, but last for only a short duration of time compared to the long-acting bronchodilators

 

Short-burst oxygen therapy

Oxygen therapy given in short bursts on occasions when people get breathless. See also long-term oxygen therapy

 

Somnolence

Excessive sleepiness or unnatural drowsiness. For people with COPD, it is a sign of dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. If you experience this you should seek emergency care immediately.

 

Spirometer

A machine that measures how much you can breath out of your lungs, and how quickly

 

Virus

A virus is smaller than bacteria. Viruses can cause infections in humans. An infection that is caused by a virus, such as influenza, is known as a viral infection.

 

Wheeze

The gasping or whistling sound made when breathing becomes difficult

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