Glossary of COPD Terms
Acinus: The berrylike
ending of a tiny airway in the lung, where the alveoli (air sacs) are
Airways: Tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs.
Airway obstruction: A narrowing, clogging, or blocking of the passages that carry air to the lungs.
Alpha-1- antitrypsin: (See alpha-1-protease inhibitor.)
Alpha-1- protease inhibitor: A substance in blood transported to the lungs that inhibits the digestive activity of trypsin and other proteases which digest proteins. Deficiency of this substance is associated with emphysema.
Antibiotic: A drug that kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria.
Antibodies: Specific proteins produced by the body's immune system that bind with foreign proteins (antigens).
Artery: A blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Asthma: Respiratory condition caused by narrowing of the airways; symptoms include recurrent attacks of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and labored breathing.
Bronchi: Larger air passages of the lungs.
Bronchiole: The smaller airways of the lungs.
Bronchiolitis: Inflammation of the bronchioles, usually caused by a viral infection.
Bronchodilator: A drug that relaxes the smooth muscles of the airways and relieves constriction of the bronchi.
Cell: Basic subunit of every living organism; the simplest unit that can exist as an independent living system.
Chronic: Of long duration; frequently recurring.
Corticosteroids: Drugs that mimic the action of a group of hormones produced by adrenal glands; they are anti-inflammatory and act as bronchodilators.
Cyanosis: Bluish color of the skin due to insufficient oxygen in the blood.
Cystic fibrosis: A serious genetic disease of excretory glands, affecting lungs and other organs; it causes production of very thick mucus that interferes with normal digestion and breathing.
Diffusion: (DLCO) The movement of oxygen or carbon dioxide
across the membrane of the alveoli to the blood.
Duct: A passage or tube with well-defined walls for the passage of air or liquids.
Dysplasia: Abnormal development or growth.
Dyspnea: Shortness of breath; difficult or labored breathing.
Edema: Abnormal accumulation of fluid in body tissues.
Emphysema: Chronic lung disease in which there is permanent destruction of alveoli.
Gas exchange: Primary function of the lungs; transfer of oxygen from inhaled air into the blood and of carbon dioxide from the blood into the lungs.
Genetic: Inherited through genes passed on by one or both parents.
Hyaline membrane disease: A respiratory disease of newborns, especially premature infants, in which a membrane composed of proteins and dead cells forms and lines the alveoli making gas exchange difficult or impossible.
Hypertension: High blood pressure.
Immunization: Protection from disease by administering vaccines that induce the body to form antibodies against infectious agents.
Inflammation: Response of the body tissues to injury; typical signs are swelling, redness, and pain.
Intermittent positive pressure breathing (IPPB) machine: A device that assists intermittent positive pressure inhalation of therapeutic aerosols without hand coordination required in the use of hand nebulizers or metered dose inhalers.
Laser: In the context of a therapeutic tool, it is a device that produces a high-intensity light that can generate extreme heat instantaneously when it hits a target.
Membrane: Thin, flexible film of proteins and lipids that encloses the contents of a cell; it controls the substances that go into and come out of the cell. Also, a thin layer of tissue that covers the surface or lines the cavity of an organ.
Mucus: A thick fluid produced by the lining of some organs of the body.
Oxygen: Colorless odorless gas that makes up about 20 percent of the air we breathe; it is essential to life because it is used for the chemical reactions that occur in the cells of the body.
Pathogenesis: The cellular events and reactions that occur in the development of disease.
Pathophysiology: Altered functions in an individual or an organ due to disease.
Pneumonia: Inflammation of the lungs.
Pneumothorax: Accumulation of air or gas in the space between the lung and chest wall, resulting in partial or complete collapse of the lung.
Positive pressure ventilation: Provision of oxygen under pressure by a mechanical respirator.
Progressive: Increasing in severity.
Pulmonary: Pertaining to the lungs.
Pulmonary hypertension: Abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs.
Respiration: Process of exchanging oxygen from the air for carbon dioxide from the body; includes the mechanical process of breathing, gas exchange, and oxygen and carbon dioxide transport to and from the cells.
Respiratory distress syndrome: A lung disease that occurs primarily in premature infants; the newborn must struggle for each breath and blueing of its skin reflects the baby's inability to get enough oxygen.
Respiratory failure: Inability of the lungs to conduct gas exchange.
Risk factors: Habits, traits, or conditions in a person or in the environment that are associated with an increased chance (risk) of disease.
Surfactant: Fluid secreted by the cells of the alveoli that reduces the surface tension of pulmonary fluids; it contributes to the elastic properties of pulmonary tissue.
Symptom: Any indication of disease noticed or felt by a patient; in contrast, a sign of an illness is an objective observation.
Symptomatic treatment: Therapy that eases symptoms without addressing the cause of disease.
Ventilation: Exchange of air between the lungs and the atmosphere so that oxygen can be exchanged for carbon dioxide at the alveoli.
Ventilator: A breathing machine that is used to treat respiratory failure by promoting ventilation; also called a respirator.
Wheezing: Breathing with a rasp or whistling sound; a sign of airway constriction or obstruction.
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Last modified: June 17, 2002