Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow. This makes the process of breathing increasingly difficult. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthmatic bronchitis all fall under the umbrella of COPD. Each of these conditions decreases quality of life, and causes ill health and death worldwide.

Physicians have been tracking the symptoms of COPD for around 200 years. Learn the history of the condition and how far treatment has progressed.

Prevalence of COPD today

Estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that COPD is the third most common cause of death in the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO)predicts that COPD will be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. As of 2014, many as 15.7 million in the United States reported they have COPD, according to the CDC.

Early history of COPD

COPD is likely not a new condition. In the past, physicians may have used different terms to describe what we now know as COPD. In 1679, Swiss physician Théophile Bonet referred to “voluminous lungs.” In 1769, Italian anatomist Giovanni Morgagni reported 19 cases of “turgid” lungs.

In 1814, British physician Charles Badham identified chronic bronchitis as a disabling health condition and part of COPD. He was the first person to use the term “catarrh” to describe the ongoing cough and excessive mucus that COPD produces.