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Portable Oxygen Concentrator Resource Center

COPD Lexicon and What You Need to Know

Posted by Erin Lowry on Jul 9, 2018 12:39:56 PM


COPD Lexicon & What You Need to Know

Going to the doctors can be overwhelming and stressful if you do not understand the terms they are using. It would be easier if they use layman’s terms so you could understand your own health.

We pulled together common terms used for COPD patients, so you can understand your trip to the doctor’s office.

It is important to understand terms used for your disease, that way you have a better understanding of it.

Acapella: this is a small device that helps loosen mucus with vibrations, it can be used sitting, standing, etc

Acute: sudden or abruptly onset

Advance Directives: written statement of a patients medical treatment wishes, including a living will

Adverse: harmful effect from medication or treatment

Allergen: what causes an allergic reaction (i.e. dust or pollen)

Allergies/Allergy: hypersensitivity to an allergen, immune response to an allergen

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency: your body makes AAT, when you have Alpha-1 Deficiency your liver makes the proteins a different shape and it can take more time or get stuck when attempting to get to the lungs

Alveoli: tiny air sacs in the lungs allowing gas exchange

Antibiotic: medication that hinders the growth of or kills microorganisms

Anticholinergics: medication that blocks acetylcholine, acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that send signals between cells to tell your body what it needs to do

Antihistamine: medication that is used to prevent or hinder allergens

Anti-Inflammatory: medication used to reduce inflammation

Apnea: a pause in breathing, normally during sleep

Arterial Blood Gas Test: after blood is drawn it is tested to check the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide and pH levels

Atelectasis: part or fully collapsed lung

Asthma: spasms of the bronchi in the lungs, which can cause a difficulty breathing


Bacteria: a small microorganism that is found everywhere, some can cause infection, or be beneficial

Beta-Agonists: medication that relax the muscles in the airways and open the airways

BiPAP: bilevel positive airways pressure, a ventilator used to help you breathe

Black Pigment: what the soot covered lungs are called

Blebs: small subpleural (between the pleura and body wall) thin walled air containing spaces

Bronchial Tubes: the two main branches that bring the air into the lungs

Bronchioles: the small branches of air in the lungs, connect the alveoli

Bronchitis: inflammation in the bronchial tubes

Bronchodilator: medication that causes relaxation of the bronchial muscles, widening of the bronchi

Bronchospasm: spasm of the bronchial muscles, narrowing the bronchi

Bullae: increased air space in the lungs, larger than 1 cm, normally in the lung and can compress the healthy tissue

Cannula: a small tube used to administer medication as well as drain fluid or insert a surgical instrument, normally inserted into a body cavity, duct or vessel

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): a gas produced by respiration and burning carbon and organic compounds

Carcinogen: a substance that can cause cancer

Chronic: an illness persisting for a long period of time or reoccurring

CPAP: continuous positive airway pressure, mainly used at night

Clinical Trials: research programs with patient evaluations on new medications, treatments or a device

Close Mouth Technique: a method to inhale medication from an inhaler

Compressed Oxygen: medical oxygen in a pressurized tank

Contraindication: a condition that a treatment plan can cause harm

Controlled Cough: a technique that is a cough from deep inside, and it works its way up to loosen mucus

COPD: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, broad term for multiple lung diseases

CPR: cardiopulmonary resuscitation, used to bring heart and lung action back to the body

Decongestant: medication that lessens how swollen the nasal tissue gets, as well as congestion and secretion

Dehydration: when the body lacks water

Diaphragm: below the lungs, a large muscle that helps the lungs breathe

Diaphragmic Breathing: practice that helps train your body how to breathe correctly and use less energy

Diffusion Capacity: measurement of how much oxygen gets from your lungs into your bloodstream

Diuretic: medication used to reduce fluid in the body and produce more urine

Dyspnea: shortness of breath

Edema: swelling in the legs, ankles and feet

EKG: an electrocardiogram is a tracing of the hearts electrical activity

Emphysema: the walls of the alveoli begin to break down and cannot exchange oxygen and CO2 between the lungs and blood

Exacerbation: worsening

Expectorant: medication that can help thin mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up

EzPAP: small device used to keep airways open

Exhalation: breathing air out of the lungs

Flutter Valve: small device used to loosen mucus through vibrations

Heart Failure: a condition where the heart muscles begin to weaken, making it hard for the heart to pump blood throughout the body

HEPA: high efficiency particulate air filter

High Blood Pressure: higher pressure of blood against the blood vessels

Histamine: a substance that is released by your immune system when exposed to an allergen

Holding Chamber: a device (similar to a tube) that is used with an inhaler

Humidification: filling the air with more water molecules

Hyperventilation: excessive breathing

Hypoxia: low oxygen in the body’s tissue

Immune System: the body’s defense against foreign substances and bacteria

IAQ: indoor air quality

Incentive Spirometer: a device that promotes deep inhalation, to expand the lungs and help with coughing

Inflammation: body’s response that can cause swelling and rednessinhaler

Inhaler: small compressed medication used to distribute medication in a mist form

Inspiration: breathing in air

Intubation: placing a tube in the trachea to force breathing, used in many emergency situations

I/E Ratio: inhalation to exhalation ratio

Irritant: something that can cause inflammation or discomfort

Leukotriene Modifier: medication used to treat asthma symptoms

Living Will: a written statement for a person and their wishes towards medical treatments in situations where they are no longer able to express consent

Liquid Oxygen: compressed oxygen cooled off

Lung Volume: the amount of air the lungs can hold

LVRS: lung volume reduction surgery

Lung Transplant: surgery to remove one of both lungs that are no longer functioning and replace them with healthy lungs from a donor

Maximal Oxygen Uptake: the maximum amount of oxygen your body uses during a period of exercise

Medical History: the past and present health information on a patient, including medications, surgeries and family history

Metered Dose Inhaler: medication delivered through an inhaler, only to give off a standard dose

Mucolytic Agent: medication used to reduce the amount of mucus

Mucus: clear secretion from the mucous membrane

Nasal Cannula: tubing used to deliver supplemental oxygen to the patient through the nose

Nasal Spray: medication used for allergies and congestion

Nebulizer: medication delivered in the form of a mist and is inhaled into the lungs

Non-Steroidal: medication that has no steroids involved, such as aspirin or ibuprofen

Open-Mouth Technique: used to inhale medication from a metered dose inhaler

Orthopnea: breathing difficulty due to body position

Oxygen: colorless, odorless gas, life-sustaining, can be prescribed if not enough oxygen is getting to the lungs

Oxygen Concentrator: a device used to pull oxygen from the surrounding air and deliver it through nasal cannula

PEP: small device used to help the airways from closing, pressurized and helps with exhaling

Peak Expiratory Flow Rate: test given to see how fast air can be expelled from your lungs

Pharynx: back of the throat, extending from the nasal cavity to the esophagus

Pneumonia: sudden inflammation in one or both of the lungs, can occur with bronchitis

Pollen: small protein particles in the air, derived from trees, grass, flowers and weeds

Postural Drainage: using a certain posture or position to help gravity drain mucus from the lungs

Productive Cough: a cough that produces mucus

Puffer: another term for an inhaler

Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT): tests used to measure how well air is moving in and out of the lungs, as well as getting oxygen into the blood stream

Pulmonary Hypertension: lung disorder that affects the arteries in the lungs, making them narrowed and harder for blood to flowpulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary Rehabilitation: used to help breathing, can be from treatment, exercise, education or counseling

Pulmonologist: doctor who specializes in lungs and lung diseases

Pulse Oximeter: test that measures the oxygen in the blood through a non-invasive clip that attaches to the finger

Pursed-Lip Breathing: inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth as if you are blowing out a candle

Relapse: return of symptoms after a period of time that was improvement

Residual Volume: air left in the lungs after exhaling

Respiration: breathing process that involves exchanging of gases in the blood (oxygen to CO2)

Respiratory Failure: the lack of oxygen delivery or carbon dioxide removal in the lungs

Respiratory Rate: breaths per minute

Respiratory Therapist/Therapy: professional treatment for respiratory diseases

Sedentary: minimal to no physical activity

Sleep Apnea: a disorder that occurs during sleep that can stop breathing from 10 seconds to about a minute

Spacer: used with a metered dose inhaler, it is to help pressing the inhaler and breathing in the medication

Spirometry: test used to measure air in the lungs after breathing in as much as possible

Sputum: mucus

Stenting/Stent: a process of inserting a wire tube (stent) into damaged blood vessels to keep them open and flowing

Steroid: medication that can reduce swelling and inflammation

Theophylline: medication to open airways and can help prevent airways spasms, night-time cough and shortness of breath

Thera Pep: small device used to keep airways open and prevent lungs from collapsing

Thorax: the middle of the body (between neck and abdomen) that includes the cavity surrounded by the ribs, breastbone, and dorsal vertebrae, as well as all the organs, also known as the chest

Tidal Volume: the amount of air inhaled and exhaled during regular breathing (in a respiratory cycle)

Total Lung Capacity Test: test used to measure remaining air in the lungs after inhalation

Trachea: the “wind pipe”, providing air to the lungs

Tracheostomy: surgery to create a hole in the front of the neck to allow air to flow

Vaccine: medication injected to prevent infection

Ventilator: breathing machine used to move air into and out of the lungs for those who cannot breathe on their own or struggle to breathe

Virus: smaller than bacteria, a virus will attach to a living cell and reproduces, this can cause an infection, such as the common cold

Vital Capacity: the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs after the maximum inhalation

Wheezing: a whistling noise made by the airways during breathing, normally caused by narrow or obstructed airways

You can download the PDF here to print and bring with you to the doctor or keep on your fridge at home.

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