Glossary of COPD Related Terms

Glossary of COPD Related Terms

COPD Related Terms

Sometimes it may seem like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease has its own language! Here is a glossary with common COPD-related terms.

Sometimes it may seem like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease has its own language! Here is a glossary with common COPD-related terms.


These medications work to relax the muscles in airways through the parasympathetic pathway, by relaxing the tense state of the muscles. These are available as controllers.


These medicines work to relax the muscles in your airways through the sympathetic pathway. These are available as rescue relievers and controllers.


A medicine used for relaxing muscles around the lungs’ airways allowing the airways to open up and expand. These include anticholinergics and Beta-agonists.


Plastic tubing used to supply oxygen through the nose.


Medicines that mimic the action of a group of hormones produced by adrenal glands. They are anti-inflammatory. This medicine can be inhaled or taken by mouth.


Shortness of breath. Difficult or labored breathing.


Flare-ups of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in which symptoms get worse. Changes in medical treatment may be needed.


Rapid breathing often caused by being nervous or panicked.


Too little oxygen in the body.


A portable device to take inhaled medicine in a couple of breaths.

Liquid Oxygen (LOX)

This is oxygen condensed into a liquid state by extreme cold. A small amount of liquid oxygen is a very large amount of oxygen gas. The big tank at your house can also fill easy-to-carry smaller tanks when you leave your house. Nebulizer

This is a device that delivers medicines in a fine spray or mist. It requires no special coordination. It is a good method for getting drugs directly into the lungs.

Oxygen Concentrator

A machine used for oxygen therapy. It has a pump that takes oxygen from the air, and moves it through a long narrow tube into the nose. It concentrates the amount of oxygen taken from the air. There are now portable oxygen concentrators available.

Oxygen Therapy

A medically prescribed system of providing supplemental oxygen to the body. It is prescribed when diseased lungs are not able to meet the body’s oxygen needs.

Pulse Oximetry

This test measures how much oxygen is in your blood. The test is easy, and the result is a percentage. The doctor will put a sensor on your finger or ear and a light will be used to measure the oxygen content in your blood. The result of this test may show if you need oxygen therapy.


This is a part of a Pulmonary Function Test. It measures the amount of air able to be breathed out forcefully. It is used to help diagnose lung diseases.


Mucus, usually loose in the lungs. It may be coughed up.

Resources and Support

The COPD Foundation offers resources such as COPD360social, an online community where you can connect with patients, caregivers and healthcare providers and ask questions, share your experiences and receive and provide support. We also offer free, downloadable educational materials available through our downloads library.

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