Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are together called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. This is a chronic condition, usually attributed to tobacco smoking, causing shortness of breath and cough, leading to limitation of everyday activities like walking.
In chronic bronchitis, the airways (or bronchi) that connect the windpipe and the lungs become inflamed and swollen. The airways become narrow and are clogged up with thick mucus, called phlegm. Chronic bronchitis may be found together with emphysema, in which the air sacs in the lung become damaged, reducing the surface area where oxygen exchange takes place. Both diseases make it difficult to breathe.
COPD is a very common condition, especially among people who smoke tobacco. It is estimated 2.6 million Canadians have COPD, although many are undiagnosed. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada.