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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: diagnosis and management

Hetal Dhruve details what primary care nurses need to know to effectively manage this condition

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term to describe airflow limitation that is due to airway and/or alveolar abnormalities usually caused by significant exposure to noxious particles or gases, such as cigarette smoke.1

The airflow limitation is caused by a mixture of small airways disease (eg obstructive bronchiolitis) and parenchymal destruction (emphysema). The combination of chronic inflammation, narrowing of the small airways and reduced lung elastic recoil diminishes the ability of the airways to exchange gas.1

COPD is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, and the second most common lung disease in the UK after asthma; affecting almost 2% of the UK population. In 2012, almost 30,000 people in the UK died as a result of COPD.1

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