Common COPD Terms: Understanding What They Mean

by | Jul 27, 2017 | COPD, Disease Education, FAQs, Lung Transplant, Resources

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common lung disease that affects around 24 million people in the United States. When you’re diagnosed with COPD, your doctor might use terms that are new. To be able to treat your condition, you need to be able to understand the lingo. To help, we have put together a list of common COPD terms for you.

First, we’ll start with COPD. COPD is actually a general term that includes several conditions, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic asthma. There are two main causes of COPD: cigarette smoking and alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency. Polluted working conditions and occupational dusts can also cause COPD, especially among people who smoke cigarettes.


Anti-inflammatory are medications, like the steroid prednisone, for example, that reduce inflammation and swelling in the body. This is a very common COPD term, as many people with COPD are prescribed steroids to manage symptoms.


Anticholinergics are also called cholinergic blockers or maintenance bronchodilators. This medication helps to open breathing airways, allowing air to flow more easily into and out of the lungs.


Apnea refers to the absence of breathing for more than 10 seconds.

Asthma, chronic

Chronic asthma is a long-term condition that inflames and narrows the air passageways. People with asthma will experience frequent wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Coughing will often occur at night or early morning.


There are bronchial tubes in your lungs that are branches of the air passages. Bronchioles are the smallest branches that connect to the alveoli, or air sacs.



Bronchodilators are medications that are used to relax airway muscles, increasing airflow. They can also help clear mucus from your lungs. There are quick-acting bronchodilators, which are used for quick relief in an emergency situation, and long-acting bronchodilators, which are used to manage symptoms over a longer period of time.


Chronic refers to any condition that occurs over a long period of time.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research programs that are conducted with actual patients to evaluate the efficacy of a new medical treatment, drug or device. They are in place to find new and improved methods of treating various diseases and conditions. The Lung Health Institute participates in clinical trials in the state of Texas.

Compressed Oxygen

Compressed oxygen is a form of oxygen that is often prescribed for people with COPD. It comes in the form of a gas tank, and an attached flow meter and regulator monitor and adjust oxygen flow.


Corticosteroids are a type of steroid medication that are used when symptoms, like an exacerbation, gets worse, especially when there is increased mucus production. They can be taken orally in the form of a pill or inhaled.


Dyspnea refers to difficulty or labored breathing.


An exacerbation is also known as a symptom flare-up. This is another very common COPD term that you will likely hear your doctor use. Examples of exacerbations include: rapid and shallow breathing, coughing, feeling tired or confused, wheezing more than normal and having lower oxygen levels than normal.


Hyperventilation refers to an excessive rate and depth of breathing.


Hypoxia occurs when there is not enough oxygen in your body tissues even though blood flow is adequate.


An inhaler is a small aerosol canister that is placed in a plastic container that releases medication when pressed down. It is a medication that can be breathed in. Many COPD medications are distributed through an inhaler.

Liquid Oxygen (LOX)

Liquid oxygen takes up less space (about 1/10) than that of a compressed oxygen tank. It can be refilled at home. Liquid oxygen has less pressure than compressed air, but can be very cold to the touch, potentially “burning” your skin.

Lung Reduction

A lung reduction is a surgical procedure in which damaged areas of the lungs are removed so that the remaining, healthier portion of lungs can function more effectively. Only certain people are eligible for this type of surgery.

Lung Transplant

A lung transplant is a surgical procedure in which a healthy lung that is taken from a donor replaces a patient’s unhealthy lung. Not everyone is eligible for a lung transplant, and the procedure often comes with several negative side effects. For example, a lung transplant patient will need to take specific medications for the rest of his or her life.

Oxygen Saturation

Oxygen saturation refers to the amount of oxygen that’s in your bloodstream. The normal range of oxygen saturation for adults is 94 to 99 percent. Anyone with an oxygen saturation level below 90 percent will likely require supplemental oxygen.

Pulse Oximeter


A pulse oximeter is a tool used to measure oxygen level in the blood. It is a device that clips onto your finger.


Spirometry is a test that measures the amount of air in the lungs after a person has inhaled as much as they possibly can.


Sputum is mucus that is loose in the lungs. It is something that you may cough up.

Cellular Therapy

Cellular therapy is a treatment option for people with COPD. It harnesses the body’s natural healing abilities and may work to improve quality of life. Cellular therapy can be performed during any stage of COPD.

If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, cellular therapy may be able to help. Contact us today for more information.

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Call Toll-Free: 888-745-6697


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At Lung Health Institute, your health comes first. Before treatment, we conduct a thorough medical screening to ensure you’re a good candidate for cellular therapy.