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



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



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



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



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



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



Any medicine that acts by dilating the bronchi and bronchioles



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)



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 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



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



The sudden worsening of a disease or its symptoms



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



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



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 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



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



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



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.



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



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.



The gasping or whistling sound made when breathing becomes difficult

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