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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease


It is a condition characterized by obstruction of the airways (the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs) which is not fully reversible. It includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There is underlying inflammation of the airways, most commonly due to tobacco smoking leading to damage to the lung tissue. It was estimated that the prevalence of COPD in Malaysian men was around 4.7%.


Signs and symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, chronic cough, excessive phlegm production, wheeze (whistling noise), and chest tightness and reduced exercise tolerance. The patients may also experience tiredness, sleep disturbance and weight loss.



  • Frequent lung infections requiring recurrent hospital admissions
  • Respiratory failure
  • Right heart failure
  • Weight loss


  • Depression and anxiety
  • Stress to carers


  • Social isolation – due to shortness of breath and reduced exercise tolerance.
  • Financial burden – due to frequent hospital admissions and treatments


Non drug treatment

  • Stop smoking – can get help from quit smoking clinics available in some government clinics.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation – (described below in rehabilitation section)

Drug treatment

  • Medications in the form of tablets, inhalers (pump device delivering medicines into the airways) and/or nebulizers (machine delivering medicine in gaseous form) may improve symptoms.
  • Oxygen treatment may be required in some cases.
  • Antibiotic treatment is usually required in treatment of infection.


  • In selected cases, lung surgery may be required.


Stop smoking- nicotine replacement therapy may help administration of vaccines (to prevent recurrence of lung infections) ie. Flu and pneumococcal vaccines.


Multidisciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation (by doctors, nurses, physiotherapist, and dietitian) involves exercise, disease management training and nutritional advice to help patients stay active and carry out day to day activities. Assessment by clinical psychologist and medical social worker may be helpful in some cases.


Last Review : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Joseph Ngeh
  : Dr. Mohd Daud Che Yusof
  : Dr. R. Sukumar a/l Rajaretnam
Reviewed : Dr. George Taye