COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Causes of COPD

COPD usually develops because of long-term damage to your lungs from breathing in a harmful substance, usually cigarette smoke, as well as smoke from other sources and air pollution.

Jobs where people are exposed to dust, fumes and chemicals can also contribute to developing COPD.

You’re most likely to develop COPD if you’re over 35 and are, or have been, a smoker.

Some people are more affected than others by breathing in noxious materials. COPD does seem to run in families, so if your parents had chest problems then your own risk is higher. A rare genetic condition called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency makes people very susceptible to develop COPD at a young age.

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Last medically reviewed: September 2016. Due for review: September 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.