What three diseases processes form the pathophysiology of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?

Updated: Nov 13, 2020
  • Author: Paul Kleinschmidt, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a mixture of three separate disease processes that together form the complete clinical and pathophysiological picture. These processes are chronic bronchitis, emphysema and, to a lesser extent, asthma. Progression of COPD is characterized by the accumulation of inflammatory mucous exudates in the lumens of small airways and the thickening of their walls. These walls become infiltrated by adaptive and innate inflammatory immune cells. Infiltration of the airways with substances such as polynuclear and mononuclear phagocytes and CD4 T cells increases with each stage of disease progression. This is also true for B cells and CD8 T cells, which organize into lymphoid follicles. This chronic inflammatory process is associated with tissue repair and remodeling that ultimately determines the pathologic type of COPD.

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